Editor’s note: This is the first in a, an initiative that will either push the proposed Playa del Norte commercial development another step toward fruition or will kill the controversial North Beach project.
At first glance, the debate seems pretty typical. They are the arguments that always swirl when a developer looks to build something big in the vicinity of the ocean. The pro-development voices cite increased revenues and amenities the project would bring to an under-utilized area. Opponents, meanwhile, complain of blocked ocean views and overcrowding if building is allowed.
But comparing one's opponent to a genocidal dictator in a massive street-side mural? That is definitely not typical.
Such is the battle that has raged over Playa del Norte, LAB development company’s 42,000-square-foot retail village proposal for North Beach. When the voters go to the polls March 8 to decide whether the project will live on or die, they will have braved months of personal attacks, name-calling, vulgarities, bigoted language and, of course, that , which appeared earlier this month on a prominent wall of the Miramar Theater.
It has gotten so bad that Lt. Paul D’Auria, chief of San Clemente Police Services, has appeared before the City Council calling for calm and respect from both sides, warning that illegal campaign antics, like the routine theft of opponents' campaign signs, have been taking deputies away from investigating more serious crimes.
Despite the fevered competition over Measure A, Election Day will not end the debate over Playa del Norte. . A , leaving the space open for other potential projects, though not the LAB's proposal.
The proposed development would consist of three main buildings linked by courtyards and plazas. The retail/restaurant and office buildings would sit in what is now a parking area adjacent to the Ole Hanson Beach Club and Ichibiri Japanese restaurant.
The grade would be raised up to 9 feet near the center of the property to level out the topography, and the fill tapers off at the edges.
The project would center on a 40-foot tower (measured from current grade) with an elevator inside. In addition to the 42,000 square feet of leasable space, the project would also contain 11,000 square feet of outdoor “view-oriented” plazas, according to city documents.
The buildings would have red tile roofs and white stucco in the Spanish colonial revival style prevalent in the area, according to renderings and documents. The design is meant to complement the Spanish colonial-style architecture favored by building codes, as well as some historical buffs.
But opponents see nothing attractive about the plan, whether or not it is aesthetically pleasing. They argue that the beach views from public rights-of-way will be compromised, parking will be moved too far from the beach and the practice of selling public property to a private entity raises policy concerns because the land was originally purchased through eminent-domain proceedings in the 1970s. The tentative deal provides LAB with terms that are much too favorable, giving the builder the option to purchase the land in three to seven years, opponents argue.
Proponents cite the lack of beachfront amenities and the poorly designed northern entrance to the city where Playa del Norte would sit. They say the development would bring needed revenue to the city and would take pressure off the crowded Pier Bowl.
Debates about the project have sometimes gotten ugly on San Clemente Patch forums. Opponents and proponents have also attacked each other’s arguments, and each other personally, in op-ed pieces in local media.
Project opponent and former Councilman Wayne Eggleston has called for a public debate, while many in the pro-Measure A group look at a debate as a propaganda tool for those fighting the development, as project proponent Councilman Jim Evert expressed in an e-mail to local media.
Almost from the day the city first sent out a request for proposals for the North Beach project in 2005, the potential development has been the subject of furious debate. Voters approved by about 6 percent Measure W in 2008 as an advisory measure to allow the project negotiations to commence.
Opponents of the development subsequently gathered almost 8,000 signatures to get Measure A on the ballot in a special March 8 election in an effort to halt those negotiations and, they hope, ultimately kill the project.
PLAYA DEL NORTE CONCEPT FACTS:
Retail square footage: 24, 280
Restaurant square footage: 13,590
Office square footage: 4,290
Gross square footage: 48,970
Outdoor view plaza square footage: 11,170
Highest point: 39.7 feet above current grade
Architect: Henry Lenny