Passions Are Inflamed Over Proposed North Beach Development

Illegal campaign antics, attacks in the media and ugly language in online forums hit a crescendo leading up to March 8 special election.

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.


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

pandano February 15, 2011 at 05:29 PM
The problem started in 2003, with the creatoin of the Downtown Vision. It contemplates projects that cannot be built under the General Plan or zoning ordinances. The city has engaged developers on both the ill-fated Village Courtyard, and the LAB project, KNOWING that the proposal was not possible under existing laws. That cart-before-horse approach is arguably the root of the problem. It's poor form to enter negotiations for a project, with the idea that you will simply change the laws to suit the outcome of the negotiations. Otherwise why have laws. Part of why there is such strong support for NO on A.
george gregory February 15, 2011 at 05:56 PM
You forgot to write about the moneys or lack of You forgot to mention how people were blocked from attending the meetings and votes and how no choices were given , like a park or a bigger club house , trail extension , commuter center a place for community events and how mush pressure the future will bring to beach parking like a neighbor stated why do we need it ////STOP THE LAB///SAVE THE BEACHES/// VOTE NO ON A
Bill S February 15, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Hi Jean, Thanks for bringing up parking. Please explain how "All the Beach parking remains except for the 10 spaces for the Beach Trail Cafe". Your plan removes 107 spaces in the triangle. Are you saying that 70-90 spaces at the City Yard 1/2 mile away are beach parking spaces? Also, the 93 spaces on the Marblehead lot 1/4 a mile, is that the beach parking you are referring to. How is removing beach parking and moving it across the street not an impact. What about the new parking demand for the shoppers and restaurants. Where are all the PDN shoppers going to park. Are they all walking, or won't they impact the beach parking? You conveniently leave out details when trumpeting your plan.
Bill S February 15, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Let us factor in that the new mini-mall development will create a DEMAND for 200-300 additional parking spots (because of employees and customers). Our mini-mall will require parking, and those people will probably not want to pay for parking. I don't pay to shop and eat when I go to the Spectrum, or The Shops of Mission Viejo. In fact, I don't pay to shop on Del Mar. We will really have 224-340 deficit in "convenient" parking if you ask me. Can you say parking and traffic problems! Parking and traffic problems... I just said it again. NO ON A please. Thanks
Vonne Barnes February 15, 2011 at 07:12 PM
At first glance, an artificial computer generated simulation is used as the lead image in this article. This is but one of the many images posted on the city website that have not been approved by the Coastal Commission. Please watch the City Council meeting tonight at 6 am channel 854 for further details. Local architect Ricardo Nicol and I have presented slide shows before the City Council, pointing out numerous visuals in the LAB Architecture Package that is posted on the city website that are not images of the Playa del Norte Project. As a result of our work, the city has added the following disclaimer to the website: Playa Del Norte Architectural package "It must be emphasized that the photographs on the cover page and throughout the text of the Architectural Package were provided by LAB Holding LLC, the project applicant, not the City of San Clemente. Those photographs depict examples (obtained from other existing projects and properties) of the general quality, style, and type of design and materials that would be incorporated into the Playa del Norte project, but the photographs do not depict actual representations of the Playa del Norte project itself."
george gregory February 15, 2011 at 07:59 PM
I can not think of a better adhesive to hold the historic buildings together at North beach than A BIG GREEN PARK Or of a better way to augment income generating and usability of the beach club for all 70.000 of us than A BIG GREEN PARK
Sam La Sala February 15, 2011 at 08:43 PM
The historical illiteracy, by some in this town who should know better, is appalling. The 45,000 sq. ft. LAB monolith will shrink into insignificance the Ole Hanson Beach Club which is , and should continue to be,the time-honored historical landmark of North Beach.
Randall Rausin February 15, 2011 at 09:31 PM
As this heated debate continues, I definitely detect a strong odor of "parking fund entitlement" from Labbers and while I don't think it's fair to spin this fray into the "March of the Talegans", you can't help but notice a collective effort by a particular group to colonize an even wider swath of the city and exploit its inhabitants for their benefit. Even if the perfect storm occurred in which the Playa Del Crap Shoot might one day be fiscally advantageous to our city - the perpetual growth economy it endorses ultimately leads to a brick by brick culture collapse of historic proportions because you cannot have infinite economic growth in a finite city without sacrificing the quality of life and culture of it's citizens.. To me that's the absurdity of this whole debacle; Playa Del Norte destroys exactly what it claims to have in its best interest - San Clemente! It's been realized by most people for some time now that San Clemente is "built out" on three sides and the only direction to inflict further development is inland, so I strongly urge proponents of Playa Del Norte and its "faux progress" to focus their energies and penchant for development to those areas and Vote No on A, Thank You!
Bill S February 15, 2011 at 09:36 PM
I hope people go to the city website and look at the Master Parking plan. You will see it was written in 2008. Nearly 3 years old. No simple summary exists that points to the numbers or parking spaces you refer too. Instead it talks about options and parking garages and rink parking. How can you use a parking plan with so many invalid options and variables. My point is there is no exact number. You don't know and the city documents don't know. It was a parking study with many fluid variables. Your interpretation is flawed and the validity of the parking study is flawed. Most Importantly your Flyers and advertisements are VERY FLAWED. Here is your new advertisement: Less parking, less open space, fake Gardens, blocking ocean views More concrete and traffic for more headaches and decreased property values. The back of the flier: YES ON MEASURE A MEANS a new Mini-Mall and your open space is gone. - YES ON MEASURE A MEANS BLOCKING your OCEAN VIEWS AND OPEN SPACE FOR ALL OF SAN CLEMENTE to think about and reminisce. PARKING WILL NOT be a BREEZE BECAUSE MEASURE A WILL BRIING a mini-mall to our beach parking. Sorry, but NO ON A means lets fix the Miramar and finish Marblehead. Move the LAB plans over to Marblehead. it could work there and then we all keep our land and beach parking. what about in 2008 when The Lab was going to pay for their parking and not accept subsidies?
Sam La Sala February 15, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Mr. Townsend, Besides the photo hoax mentioned by Vonne Barnes, most of the entirety of your article was so tilted in favor of the LAB position, that unless you provide more balance in your subsequent articles, I'm afraid your publication will have to be labeled as nothing less than a house organ for the LAB.
concernedaboutthetruth February 15, 2011 at 11:10 PM
I agree.. So disappointing
concernedaboutthetruth February 15, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Maybe you've been eating the free tacos too.
Adam Townsend February 16, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Mr. La Sala and concernedaboutthetruth: What do you find objectionable or inaccurate in this article? Please be specific and I will address your concerns in an e-mail when I have the time. You may also e-mail me or call me directly at adam.townsend@patch.com or 949-436-3050.
concernedaboutthetruth February 16, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Really? How about all the pictures minus 1 being in support of A? Goodness read it Adam?
Adam Townsend February 16, 2011 at 12:39 AM
I uploaded the rendering, which comes from the city, a pro-Measure A photo and a photo from the Anti-A rally a couple weeks ago from our files. I did not disable uploads on this article; the rest of the photos were uploaded by readers. You're welcome to upload any photos or pdfs you wish. I'll warn you that tomorrow is an article that is a profile of the Sadeghi's, and you may not like it because it outlines complaints he and the pro-Measure A side have with the opposition. As a player central to this issue, I believe Mr. Sadeghi is entitled to voice his opinion in coverage of this issue. That being said, the third part of this series is, I assure you, a dispassionate look at the current negotiating deal based on city documents. It addresses the concerns of the 'No on A' campaign. I've been speaking extensively with Tom Barnes, who is a Patch columnist working against Measure A, and had extensive discussions with Charles Mann and Wayne Eggleston over the last month. As I prepare each of these articles for publication, I am calling the sources to go over the facts to confirm them. I hope this addresses your concerns.
Randall Rausin February 16, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Thanks Adam - you've done an outstanding and very professional job of publishing your unbiased views in this forum and we appreciate the level headed moderation you've lent to this emotional debate. Most of us realize that it's difficult to present any kind of factual informational overview of the issue without at least mentioning Playa Del Norte and reporting the proposed developments' parameters. Still, I'm sympathetic to those who are so passionate regarding this issue that any mention or perceived endorsement of it (in any context) pains us like fingernails on the chalkboard or acid in the eye sockets - it disrupts the very core of our existence that this devastating development is even being considered. Thanks for keeping your finger on the pulse of the community and thank you for the Patch, which gives us all a voice in this matter as long as we don't shoot the messenger! No on A, Thank You!
Adam Townsend February 16, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Thanks, Mr. Rausin. I'm fully prepared for criticism, and I actually appreciate the opportunity to explain my processes. Please continue to raise any concerns you may have with my reporting. Any factual errors I will fix promptly when brought to my attention, mentioning what was corrected in a note in italics at the bottom of the article.
Larry Corwin February 16, 2011 at 06:17 AM
I have to agree it is time for people who want to really get the facts on how this project was rated, they need only check the city website and read the conclusion of the Keyser Marsten study. Here it was concluded; "The development of the North Beach project is an expensive project. Development costs are projected to be in excess of 17.7 million dollars or more than $ 400.00 per square foot. Projected current stable market rents do not support these construction costs much less a land payment". Thus the land must be sold for between 1 - 1.8 million or 7 million below fair market appraised value. Further, the project requires a 4.5 million dollar subsidy because it cannot afford to build the parking that is required of a project this size. A yes vote on measure A says it's ok for the city to invest over 11 million dollars in city assets on a project that has concluded "this project's financial viability is thin and has very limited financial capability". - George Scarborough, San Clemente City Manager. Vote No on A and save the San Clemente Beaches for the public.
Sam La Sala February 16, 2011 at 08:09 AM
Your detailed lavish descriptions sounded like a glorification of the project, and almost like you were endorsing it. This wondrous project or, "what is now a parking lot," is what you seem to be saying. Almost verbatim the way the LAB supporters say it. You failed to provide the same amount of detail about the blocked views, the inconvenient parking, loss of beach access, use of inaccurate renderings, diminution of the Ole Hanson club or the burdens placed on the taxpayer as he carries the weight of this one-sided "partnership." And the Green Alternative to "what is now a parking lot" was left unaddressed. If I were a LAB supporter I would revel in the word picture that was created about their project, and gloat over the short shrift given to the opposition.
Adam Townsend February 16, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Mr. La Sala: I'm not here to argue with you; you are entitled to your opinion. The entirety of this series is close to 4,000 words and I've been collecting information on this subject since late October. I'm not sure how you expect me to write in detail about Measure A without describing what the city and the developer plan to build there. Please be patient as, through the week, I outline the positions of both sides. It you're still dissatisfied with my objectivity, well, I'm not sure there is much I can do for you.
concernedaboutthetruth February 16, 2011 at 04:23 PM
So ready for this vote. Thanks Adam
Sam La Sala February 16, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Adam, I'll take you at your word that in your forthcoming articles the views of Charles Mann, Tom Barnes and, Wayne Eggleston will be given a thorough hearing. However, your panegyrical description of the LAB project overshadowed your attempt at objectively presenting the "NO on A" position, which I hope will be corrected when your entire body of work on Measure A has been published. Thank you for your courtesy and for taking the time to respond to to my concerns.
george gregory February 16, 2011 at 09:37 PM
how true every building built allong el camino real was to change the city completly and for the better ,,right aid ,,,CVS ,,ACE ,,rip curl, ectra all have inproved the area but not the city completly stop the rip off stop the lab NO ON A
george gregory February 16, 2011 at 09:40 PM
adam i can not but feel you are leening to advertising income for your self and patch NO ON A
concernedaboutthetruth February 16, 2011 at 09:58 PM
I have spoken to Lt. D'Auria in his office in which he handed (actually showed me and then emailed it to me) over to me a report of crime for North beach. The report was generated by the request of Mayor Donchak. Lt. D'Auria's findings were that the crime rate at North Beach was no different than T-Street. I have copies of this report and will provide them to anyone who wants them. The statements about your safety being at risk at North Beach is a blatant exaggeration. Furthermore the types of crimes are mostly all misdemeanors. One could assess that NB is a very safe place with a crime rate no higher than one of our nicest neighborhoods. Even with this evidence I do not suspect those who perpetuate this lie will refrain but perpetuating it from here on out will be an open admission of guilt. If you would like the report I will email it to you.
george gregory February 16, 2011 at 09:58 PM
and they where sneaky too the property taxes and sale taxes will not cover the lose of wealth suffered by the citizens of san clemente for over 20 years and maybe longer when we consider the lose of beach front land and residential values the vision process was flawed , after they elected them self’s purveyors of all they could put their sticky hands on ,,north beach was not included originally VOTE NO ON A
Adam Townsend February 16, 2011 at 11:20 PM
Mr. Gregory -- As I said before, I'm not here to argue with anybody, but I do want to point out that if I had wanted to do a propaganda piece for the pro-Measure A crowd, I could have gotten Kathryn Dennis on the phone, knocked it out in an afternoon and then moved onto other assignments, many of which are just as important as this issue. No one advertiser or job is important enough to me to compromise my personal ethics, because in the end, that's all I have to sell as a journalist. Furthermore, my salary does not come directly from advertising revenue, though it is advertising revenue that supports Patch as a nationwide entity. Our parent company is AOL, and we're currently operating nearly 800 local news and information sites in towns throughout the U.S. We have just hired an advertising staff in Orange County, so they're selling ads independent of my editorial operations. I know I won't please everybody with what I write, and such is not my intention. I can guarantee you, however, that financial concerns don't inform my editorial decisions, except that I want to draw the most readers possible, and I want those readers to understand my personal ethics so they continue to return to us as a trusted news source and community gathering place.
george gregory February 17, 2011 at 01:51 AM
adam thanks for the come back just checking , I understand how to use this tool a little better all the time it is inportant to down load a pic or doc fast or it gets buryied off page ,,,, you like my trophy crab it said no on A also ,,,,, can a spreed sheet be down loaded ??any body ready for math can any body help with this my math program is in my head 10,000 sq ft lot goes for about 900,000 dollars in this town a acre is 43,560 x 3@ north beach plus beach front x 2 plus subsidation 4 million plus add off site parking 7 mill or so what a gift now add a interest rate how long will it take the lab to pay back tru property taxes we can add for sales taxes but i dont think thats fair because the sale wounld have happened somwhere else in san clemente
Adam Townsend February 17, 2011 at 06:20 AM
That crab is awesome-- I've lived in the neighborhood and haven't found any hermit crabs on North Beach before.


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