Mayor Tim Brown took the microphone at this year’s State of the City address and warned the assembled community leaders that San Clemente is headed for a “wave of change.” It was aptly put. Throughout the history of our little colony, change has always seemed to come in surges. When the tides of timing, budget, desire and need all line up to create a perfect storm that ends up pushing projects to mature collectively.
We’ve noticed more activity on Marblehead of late and the orange signs are beginning to show up half-boarded on downtown streets. The signs will be something we’re going to learn to live with for awhile, I’m afraid.
The Mayor articulated, no less than five major construction projects will begin in 2014, some of which were planned decades before and will take years to complete. Here’s a partial list to be aware of.
La Pata Extension
There is a hill at the northern end of Avenida La Pata between Forster Ranch and Talega that separates San Clemente from San Juan Capistrano. The county, the city, OCTA and CALTRANS are putting in a 1.8 mile, $80 million road through that hill that will provide a crucial northern link (and take 10 miles off for those who commute to San Juan Hills High School). The La Pata extension broke ground on April 4th, fifty years after it was first drawn into the county plan. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016.
The 5 freeway is vital to San Clemente. It’s a main street thru the center of our town. When the freeway stops, the arterials fill up and we stop too. The current solution of a bigger freeway will be a painful one. The I-5 is to be widened from San Juan Capistrano to Avenida Pico in order to add a commuter lane in each direction. But we can hope for an eventual ease after the expected completion in 2018.
The Pico Interchange
Also starting late this year, will be major re-working of the 1-5/Pico interchange. The end result will include nine car lanes and two new bike lanes running under the freeway on Pico, as well as new off and on-ramps and a few sound walls. It is expected to be completed by 2017.
Plans have been on the books for construction of this last great southern California coastal property for at least four decades. Now things are really going to happen. The first things to be done will be the opening of Vista Hermosa from the freeway to Avenida Pico (near North Beach) which should be in the fall of this year. And get the “buildable pad” ready for developer Steve Craig to start Plaza San Clemente. (See separate story on page 10) The first phase of the outlet center is expected to open in late fall 2015.
The residential portion has been purchased by Taylor Morrison, who plans to begin building the first of its 308 homes next year. They will also be building four parks, a coastal trail system and a habitat reserve.
We undoubtably face a couple of years of inconvenience, but the results will be worthy of our patience. They will also represent the last season of dramatic growth and construction in San Clemente. It’s been almost ninety years since the first road was carved in 1925. We will be at build out well before the century mark of 2025. We will have silenced the earthmovers, will have filled in the final white space of what Ole Hanson called “just a painting three miles long”. We will have left a legacy of a respectable 41 percent of open space; golf courses, parks, beaches and trails for getting that “healthy joy out of life” that he wanted for our residents.
It will be up to us to fill it with a sense of community.