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San Clemente Journal

Making the Case for a North Beach Historic District

Mar 03, 2020 10:01AM ● By Larry Culbertson

Simulated sign on a North Beach photo from the 1930s.

by Larry Culbertson

The San Clemente Historical Society has been advocating the idea of establishing historic districts for over 20 years. A North Beach Historic District may finally become a reality in 2020. The City has hired a consultant to shepherd the process. There will be meetings and walking tours scheduled to get public input and to answer questions. Boundaries need to be established and signage considered. Finally, they will prepare the documentation to nominate the North Beach Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. Below are answers to some questions about historic districts:

What is a historic district? 
A Historic District is an area of a city which contains older buildings considered important for historical or architectural reasons. Districts can vary greatly in size; some have hundreds of structures, while others have just a few.


Why have a historic district? 
The goal of a North Beach Historic District designation is to enhance historic and cultural awareness in this northern gateway to the City. North Beach has significant visitor traffic due to the Beach Trail, visitor-serving businesses and the Metrolink train station. But the history of the area is underappreciated.  

Historic District designation will encourage appreciation of North Beach history and promote investment in preservation and rehabilitation of its historic resources. Recognition of the historic importance of North Beach will increase tourism revenue for businesses in the district and throughout the city. Pride of residence in and near the historic district will make owners more willing to spend money on upkeep and beautification of their properties. Property values will increase.

Do other cities have historic districts?
San Clemente was among the first master planned communities built from totally open land in California. We have a history that goes back almost 100 years and we have over 200 designated historic buildings, five of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. All other cities in Orange County with as many historic buildings as we do have further distinguished those buildings by designating the areas they are in as “Historic Districts.” San Juan Capistrano has six. Anaheim has five. Santa Ana has four. Orange and Yorba Linda each have two. San Clemente is overdue to join these others.
Casino San Clemente


Is there a downside to the designation?
There is a fear on the part of some owners that historic district designation will make it more difficult to build upon or do anything else with their property. The fact is that San Clemente already has protections in place for historic buildings and constraints for non-historic buildings near historic ones. Historic District designation will not add any additional constraints on the properties within the district.

The San Clemente Historical Society urges you to get involved and help make a North Beach Historic District a reality. Attend one or more of the public meetings. Provide your input as to what you would like to see in the district. The enhancements we establish there will provide the framework for other historic districts in San Clemente.