Rancho San Clemente Business Park San Clemente’s Little-known Jewel
May 01, 2008 10:23PM
By Don Kindred
Story and Photos by Bill Koezler
You glimpse a few of its buildings on the hills as you drive east on Avenida Pico towards Talega. However, did you know that there are actually 225 buildings in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park (RSC), housing some 600 businesses and more employees than most cities have as residents? Few San Clemente residents know it, but the 299-acre business park is perhaps the most successful one of all in of Orange County.
Rob Johnston, president of Johnston-Pacific Commercial Real Estate, Inc., (www.johnston-pacific.com) on Calle Avanzado, the only commercial property broker actually located in the park, says, “The park is now 98% sold out, except for a few miscellaneous pieces that owners are sitting on for various reasons.”
Rob has conducted business in the park since 1989. “When I came here, buildings covered about 299,000 square feet of floor space, there were about 50 businesses, and the Talega Business Park didn’t exist. Now RSC is nearing 3 million square feet and there are about 600 separate businesses here, with 110 more in the Talega Business Park. Clearly, this is a part of the city that some people know little about.”
Land is precious here.
Rob says, “If you had bought one acre of land in here during 1989 to 1990 it might have cost you $430,000 at $10 per square foot. However, if you bought an acre today, even if it existed, you would pay close to $1.3 million. And there is nothing in the City’s general plan that calls for more industrial areas ... so this is it.”
David N. Lund, San Clemente City Public Services Director says, “The park has several business clusters, each cluster focusing on a similar activity. One is automobile engineering, testing, and equipment distributors. Swift Engineering, on Via Callejon, (www.swiftengineering.com) has one of the most sophisticated wind tunnels designed to test prototype vehicles that race internationally.”
Bob Adams, president of the board of Lund adds, “Another cluster is the surfing industry…a number of surfing publications/magazines are published here. The microchip industry has some key players here, but they like their anonymity. Sonance Architectural Audio (www.sonance.com) on Avenida Fabricante, actually invented modern in-wall sound acoustical systems.
“Metagenics, the premier manufacturer and distributor of science-based medical foods and nutraceuticals marketed to healthcare professionals (www.metagenics.com) is a superb firm. Jeffrey Katke, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, has done an outstanding job developing his business. Traffix Devices, Inc. (www.traffixdevices.com), on Avenida La Pata, which is a leader in traffic control products for the construction and safety industry, just opened a large warehouse/office operation on La Pata near Metagenics.”
The park is far more significant to the city than the few visible buildings that we glimpse in passing would indicate. For example, David Lund says, “It is estimated that over 7,500 employees currently work in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park and at full build-out that number will increase to 9,000.”
How does the park manage itself? All the property owners in the park manage through the Rancho San Clemente master association. There are smaller associations, too, one for every one of the 20 parcels in the park. These manage common areas, parking lots, etc. on a neighborhood level. There is no association of the approximately 600 businesses in the park, although Mary Johnson, of University Press (see below) publishes an annual directory of most of them.
Bob Adams, is President of the board of directors of the master association. He is also President of Unichem Industries, Inc., (www.unichemind.com) on Calle Cordillera, primarily a premier supplier of state-of-the-art equipment for printed circuit board manufacturing that also sells equipment for manufacturing solar cells.
Mary Johnson of Universal Press provides virtually every type of commercial printing and graphic design.Bob says, “Even though there are 225 buildings here, we only have 156 members in the association because several people own more than one building. Other board members include Reuben Casey, Vice President, and owner of Casey Business Properties; Jack Kulp, Secretary and owner of TrafFix Devices, Inc; Margaret Dickey, Treasurer and RSC property owner, and William (Lee) Miller, Board Member-at-Large and RSC property owner.
A little known fact is that the RSC and the Rancho San Clemente Community Associations (RSCA) own about 200 acres between Calle Del Cerro and Amanecer that is listed as “open space” by the city. You see much of it when you are driving east on Pico from the I-5 - it is topped by that big steep hill straight ahead of you. The Ridge Line Trail ends atop that peak and runs throughout much of that parcel.
Is that property a developer’s dream? Well, it might have been once when it was private property. But when many Savings and Loans firms failed years ago, the Federal Government’s Resolution Trust Corporation, which was set up to liquidate S&L assets, quit claimed the land to the city.
“But,” says Bob Adams, “the city did not want the liability or maintenance of the property, which includes some land on the north side of Pico also, so it deeded the land to the two Rancho San Clemente entities, and we still have it, paying for its upkeep and insurance. The city, however, maintains the Ridge Line Trail.”
With 600 businesses, there are many Horatio Alger success stories in the park.
Susen (Yes, spelled with an “e”) Sarpa began her business career by working at home, sewing wedding dresses, beach attire, and school uniforms for a manufacturer. She says, “I never thought that my business would ever be where it is today,”
In 1988, Susen rented a small RSC space in a building on Amanecer
to make, personalize and sell primarily school uniforms. Her firm, True Grits School Uniforms, (www.truegrits.com) outgrew that space in just two years, so she moved the firm to Calle Negocio. In the next ten years, True Grits grew to six rented spaces in that same building.
In 2000, she bought her current 17,500 square foot building on Negocio, where she and her staff of 10 to 20 employees, depending on the season, manufacture, embroider and sell uniforms to the majority of south Orange County schools, as well as to schools in five other Southern California regions where she has branch offices.
“Ninety percent of our sales occur within driving distance of our six offices, she says.” She also leases out two spaces, (“condos”, they call them) in her building to PDA Planning Design and Application, and to Physicians Trust, Inc.
Susen Sarpa strives to put the customers first at her firm, True Grits School Uniforms. What made her so successful?
Susen says, “We strive to put the customer first in every area of our business, whether it be at our ‘early bird’ back-to-school sales, in our retail stores, or through our customer-friendly e-tail store for online purchases. We emphasize commitment to service and quality. We believe this is the reason our schools continue to place their confidence in True Grits.”
There are many more testaments to the “American dream in the park”:
Yolanda Holly, owner of Medi-Rub Corporation, Inc., (www.medirubmassagers.com) at Calle Pintoresco, is one of them. She immigrated to Boston from Poland as a young girl. When her cousin, Louise, battled and lost her life to diabetes at a young age, Yolanda never forgot.
While researching the causes of this terrible disease, Yolanda learned that many problems associated with diabetes sprang from poor circulation. She began working to develop a foot massager that would improve blood circulation, thereby minimizing swelling and the development of peripheral neuropathy.
This form of nerve damage affects over 20 million Americans. With the help of expert engineer, Jeff Barreth, and backed by her family, a successful prototype foot massager was created.
Today, Medi-Rub Massagers are indispensable to physical therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and other medical professionals. Both the foot and the body massagers are regularly used in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and of course, in the homes of countless consumers.
Yolanda Holly, owner of Medi-Rub Corp., maker of foot and body massagers.Displayed at over 850 trade shows annually, Yolanda explains, “We found that first-hand product experience is the best way to sell our foot and body massagers. Consumers find that having once experienced instant pain relief, they want that same experience every day at home.”
Next time you are at a major trade show, set your tired feet on one of her foot massagers while a Medi-Rub associate administers a stress relieving back massage with the her body massager. You may decide to take these two “made in the U.S.A” marvels home.
“Medi-Rub Massagers have been featured on HGTV, The Price Is Right, and Designing Spaces TV as well as in the celebrity GBK Gift Suites of the Oscars, Emmy’s, Golden Globes and Directors Guild,” she says, “ But the biggest reward is that we have made a difference in the quality of people’s lives.”
In 1989, Mary Johnson, owner of Universal Press, Inc, (www.universalpress.net) on Calle Negocio #A, was one of the first lessees in a park building, leasing it from Casey Business Properties, one of the earliest and biggest property owners in RSC. Her firm, which features state-of-the art digital equipment, provides virtually every kind of commercial printing and graphic design.
She had her doubts early on, moving to the park after leaving a good location on El Camino Real where she’d been since 1986, “It was slow for a while in ‘90 and ‘91 as builders stopped building and business became scarce in the park. But as San Clemente and Talega grew rapidly, we grew along with it. E-mail and Internet marketing broadened our reach even more. Now customers from anywhere can email us items to print, and then we personally deliver or UPS the job to them when done.”
Mary is a happy tenant. She says, “This park - almost fully built-out now - is great for our city. Each of us here benefits from it being such a successful entity, plus the city gains taxes on each sale made here - many many millions in sales.”
So there you have it. Rancho San Clemente Business Park FINALLY EXPOSED. It is yet another true gem in the rich crown that is San Clemente, “Our Spanish Village by the Sea.” b