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San Clemente Journal

A Tale of Two Cities

Aug 20, 2019 02:01PM ● By Mike Chamberlin
by Mike Chamberlin

The official city slogan of San Clemente is “Spanish Village by the Sea.” Whenever I describe San Clemente to someone who has never had the privilege of visiting our fair city, I tell them San Clemente is the last Southern California coastal city that never sold out! No five-star resorts on the bluffs, no expensive restaurants over looking the Pacific Ocean. It’s the same sleepy city where I grew up in the 1960s…just bigger. Well, actually, a lot bigger, and to handle its growing waistline, it had to expand. 

So, it dawned on me recently, there are two San Clementes. For lack of a better dividing line, the invisible divide is La Pata. West of La Pata is the “old” San Clemente and everything east is the “new” San Clemente. This is not an east vs. west situation, because both have their advantages. We will explore those advantages, beyond the obvious fact that one has the ocean and the other doesn’t.

Adele at Max Berg Plaza Park


 The Old
Let’s start with the ocean, because really, that’s where it all began. Ole Hanson in 1925 founded what he believed to be the gem of Southern California real estate. The humble beginnings of San Clemente found casa style homes with red tile roofs, and for many years those red tile roofs were mandatory and legislated by the city founder. Many are still visible today. But over time, San Clemente developed its own personality, and every type of architecture you can imagine now exists along the Calles and Avenidas of this coastal city. 

But, make no mistake; Ole Hanson’s fingerprints are all over the old San Clemente. He built the beach club, the community center, and the pier. So, as you walk the tree-lined Avenida Del Mar, you can thank Mr. Hanson for the quaintness that still exists today. And if there were a crowning glory in this city, you’d have to point to the day that Richard Nixon decided to call San Clemente his “Western White House.” To this day, if you mention you are from San Clemente, they say, “Oh, the Nixon town!” 

Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, San Clemente is a convenient spot to head north and south to find work, just one of the reasons the city is definitely booming. Between 2000 - 2010 San Clemente grew from 49,000 to 63,000 residents. From 2010 to today, it has grown to a population of 66,245, making it the 16th largest city in Orange County.
Adele Lux, who has operated Adele’s Restaurant at the San Clemente Inn since 2006, and at the historic Old City Plaza for eight years before that, was able to sum up the city in one simple sentence, “World’s greatest climate…and some of the nicest most honest people this side of the Mississippi.” 

Council member Laura Ferguson loves the living in Talega.

 The New
The planned community of Talega started in 1999. Located three miles from the coast, it has roughly 12,000 residents.  It has a village center with restaurants, and shopping, a golf course and one k-8 elementary/middle school served by the Capistrano Unified School District. Most dwellings are tract homes, condos and apartments that share the same master pools and recreation facilities. The community has a predominant Spanish-Tuscan architecture carried out in the homes, public spaces and buildings within the community. 

The city of San Clemente derives about 30 percent of its property tax revenue from Talega. Laura Ferguson, a member of the San Clemente City Council, moved her family to Talega from Dana Point. Her reasoning makes perfect sense, “Talega has very close-knit neighborhoods where neighbors become friends. It is still beach close at three to four miles away depending on what neighborhood you reside in. My sons love boogie boarding and surfing, so we go to the beach often. It’s an amazing community and I’m happy to have a piece of San Clemente Paradise!” 

There are advantages to both old San Clemente 
and the new Talega. Some are:

• Ocean/Pier/surfing
• Avenida Del Mar
• Easy freeway access
• El Camino Real
• San Clemente Muni Golf Course
• Beach Trail

• Talega Golf Club
• Bella Collina Golf Club
• Affordable Housing
• Minutes from the beach
• Liberty Park
• Talega Loop hiking trails

The bottom line is that San Clemente has something for just about everyone, and no matter which part of our town one calls home, all residents hold their heads high when they say, “I live in San Clemente, CA.”

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