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San Clemente Journal

North Beach – Old Dreams, New Vision

Aug 29, 2006 10:53PM ● By Don Kindred
Somewhere, Ole Hanson, San Clemente’s founding father, is smiling. His “village by the sea” concept will soon be enlarged, fulfilling dreams that Depression circumstances prevented him from completing. 
On Monday, June 12, two very capable real estate suitors presented their respective cases for the revitalization of North Beach to San Clemente’s City Council and a large group of assembled citizens – DBN Development, and LAB Holding. LAB Holding was selected.
The “passion,” track record, lower scale design, impressive team members, proven flexibility, and “vision” were all positive factors contributing to its success. Eighteen San Clemente community members spoke in support of the LAB, none for DBN. The five Council members voted unanimously and enthusiastically for LAB Holding, which will be the City’s partner as North Beach’s chosen developer. 
At present, the “unvitalized” North Beach consists of an abandoned movie house and six-lane bowling alley, Sebastian’s geodesic domed building, the Chi Institute, the mini San Clemente Metrolink Station, a train platform, a concrete contractor’s temporary offices, 7/11, Ichibiri’s Japanese restaurant, Kaylani Coffee house, a flower stand and row upon row of asphalt parking spaces. There’s also a beach, train tracks, the Capistrano Shores mobile homes and an ocean. Across El Camino Real is a surf shop, car wash and water reclamation center. Another significant new development, Marblehead Coastal, a large residential, retail outlet store, restaurant and hotel complex is in the earthmoving phase of its grandiose construction plans.

What’s the LAB bringing to the table? 
The “vision” is a visitor-oriented entertainment and recreation area serving as the gateway from the north and as a local transit hub. It will maintain “…the unique sense of place and beach town character,” providing sufficient parking, and retaining landmark buildings, enhanced by a low density, 1-2 story, and mixed-use community village, maximizing public use. The design is Spanish Colonial Revival architecture featuring a classic central courtyard/garden with authentic hand-crafted details and materials, towers, wooden gates and arched entrances, a reflective pool and unobstructed ocean views. The village street scene will feature large paseos, arcades and multiple plazas. Parking is both surface and underground. Eight buildings will house boutique retail operators, with intimate cafes and restaurants opening onto the courtyard. Office suites and approximately 12 units will be on second floors. The 75-room boutique hotel will either be built within the complex or across El Camino Real. El Camino Real and Avenida Pico are to be joined by a European style traffic circle.

What did DBN propose? 
President Steve Delson and his team; including Santa Barbara-based architects, designers and planners of the Conceptual Motion Company; proposed mixed use, commercial and residential, Spanish Colonial structures which were a little heavier, some 3-storied, contained more residential units, a 100-room hotel, with a vast centerpiece lawn extending from the Beach Club to the beachfront and a beach access bridge. Parking would be primarily underground. 
After the Council’s decision was made public, Delson, who had not witnessed the LAB’s presentation, noted his “frustration” and the considerable effort extended toward winning the North Beach contract. A developer for 30 years, he voiced pride in his reputation and “…would take the disappointment and carry on.” He may still be involved since he entered escrow with the Sebastian and Kaylani Coffee properties and was in negotiations with Ichibiri Restaurant representatives. 
Beginning in 2003, San Clemente’s City staff began meeting with consultants and a diverse group of community stakeholders to study City renovation sites. In February 2004, the City Council created the Downtown Visioning Task Force, with two representatives each from the City Council, Planning Commission, Downtown Business Association and Chamber of Commerce; one for the Historical Society; and seven “at large” representatives. That group’s Vision and Strategic Plan was adopted by the City Council in April 2005. Five distinct districts had been identified for consideration, of which North Beach was one. This Plan was, in turn, distributed to active developers who, if interested in the North Beach revitalization, were to submit proposals. In April 2006, three firms were interviewed, from which the two finalists were determined. 
To better understand the psychology behind Shaheen Sadeghi’s enterprises, it’s best to visit them.

The Lab
Sadeghi’s first 1991 creation at 2930 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, The Lab, is a juxtaposition of several building styles, colors, shapes and intentions. A very “different” indoor/outdoor arrangement of specialized commercial enterprises, it’s complimented by poetry readings, musical programs, and fashion and art events, all of which appeal to the various subcultures, age groups and social interests of a large, repeat business constituency. Past events have included live blues and jazz concerts and fashion shows featuring local high school students. One of the fourteen shops comprising The Lab’s 50,000 square feet of commercial space, for example, is Buffalo Exchange, what really amounts to a clean, well-organized, service oriented thrift store. No dark, dingy garage sale environment there, everything is pressed, polished and positioned to attract the seeker of secondhand clothing and other merchandise, with prices far below what a new item would cost. Other Lab businesses include three specialty eateries, an eyewear and fashion emporia, Urban Outfitters, a beauty salon, a hat boutique, a combination clothing/book store, a T-shirt gallery, a sneaker shop and sports and fashion clothing enterprises – not your normal mall’s tenants.

The Camp
Completed in 2002, this project is “…an eco-friendly, retail center focusing on authentic and respected retailers specializing in products for outdoor enthusiasts.” Known as a “green” shopping complex, it also serves as a community education center sponsoring “CAMPfire” semi-acoustic musical performances once a month, travel and outdoor information seminars, health food cooking demos, vintage trailer exhibitions and an organic farmers’ market. Adventure 16 sells camping and travel clothing and gear, highlighting the Patogonian line; Active sells youth sportswear and Cycleworks bicycles. There are two restaurants, Native Foods, a ‘vegan’ place, and AIRe, which includes a wine lounge, and the Village Bakery. Liburdi’s scuba center, Humanitaire clothing accessories, Blankstyle apparel and Bikram Yoga comprise the rest of The Camp.
The unique qualities of The Lab and The Camp have been covered widely and favorably in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S., including the Boston Globe, Entrepreneur, Elle, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, among others.

In April, the City of Costa Mesa approved Shaheen Sadeghi’s newest project, SoBeCA (South Bristol Entertainment and Cultural Arts). This 39-acre Urban plan will house galleries, artist lofts and live-work studios located conveniently close to the posh South Coast Plaza mall and Orange County’s equivalent of Broadway theater. It will be a 3-4-story neighborhood community with supporting ground floor retail and a mix of rental, live/work and for-sale residential units. Amenities includegreen construction, solar panels, recycling program, concierge service, pool/spa, gym, co-op garden space, library, on site day care, surfboard storage and electric golf cart giveaway program with every unit sold. Comparable in part to SoHo, Tribeca, and other metropolitan centers dedicated to the arts, Sadeghi encouraged rezoning of the area where he owns some of the land and plans to build some of the facilities. Music, fashion and art will be featured along with the estimated 400 living spaces. 
A small business aficionado of “compartment” stores (small single focus shops) Sadeghi bemoans, but relishes, the rapid demise of such large merchandisers and mall tenants as Bullocks, Robinsons-May, Macy’s and other department stores, totally dependent on huge spaces chain linked with enormous inventories of clothing, household goods, furniture, toys and notions. His direction is the anti-mall, the complete opposite. 
Asked about LAB Holding’s first project steps, Sadeghi felt they had already begun with the nine months dedicated to his North Beach development proposal. Some of his notable statements were: “I really liked the vision document.” “I understand and appreciate the beach culture.” “San Clemente is very different from all the other 30 something cities in OC.” 
Sadeghi finds this challenge “very exciting,” satisfying his desire to be “…only involved in projects we can embrace and get passionate about.” His approach to development is long-term, emphasizing “the creative side.” 
“We’re product people,” he emphasized. “We believe in the balance of the three C’s: Commerce – Culture – Community. We can build the storage units for people and merchandise and make money, but the enrichment comes from culture and community.” He runs the other way from “cookie cutter” malls where an entire area looks programmed and robotic. 
“San Clemente is special because it’s not been homogenized like the rest of Orange County,” Sadeghi remarked. He credits the people of the city, caring organizations like the Historical Society. and people who appreciate timeless structures and a lifestyle that a surfing culture encourages. 
“We’re very comfortable in San Clemente,” he continued. “It’s not like dropping into a foreign country.” He credits the already present ocean, beach, train station, historical buildings, local support and the integrity of the community. “This is part of our DNA,” he said. “If we’re going to do something in a community, we have to be involved with that community. There’s so much more to work with in San Clemente.” b 
For more information about The Lab Holding company, visit websites;,, and
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