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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.

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

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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