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San Clemente Journal

Improvements are Coming for the Gateways in South San Clemente

Sep 29, 2022 10:40AM ● By Jonathan Lightfoot

The new development will remove the restaurant and pole sign to build a new dental office.

by Jonathan Lightfoot

Changes are coming to South San Clemente. You may have already noticed that if you visited Riviera or San Clemente State Beach recently, and you take the southbound freeway off-ramp at Calafia, you now see a large white Spanish Colonial Revival building instead of chain link fencing and overgrown grass. This new building is the home of Raya’s Paradise, a residential care community for seniors that sits adjacent to the San Clemente Inn. The building features architecture emblematic of San Clemente: red tile roof, smooth white stucco, decorative tile and wrought iron details. This style of architecture was required of all buildings in the early days of San Clemente. Today, Spanish Colonial architecture is not required everywhere in town, but the city does still look for this quality of design in an architectural overlay and in Gateways. The Raya’s Paradise building is in a “freeway gateway.”

 The City’s General Plan, a document that outlines the goals and policies for how the City envisions future development, highlights gateways because they are the points of first impression for residents coming home and for visitors entering the city for the first time: “San Clemente has many gateways to special places, each with its own unique identity. From our freeway off-ramps, which often serve as a visitor’s first glimpse into our community, to the thresholds of our distinct commercial districts, to the physical and visual entryways into our rich natural and recreational resources, San Clemente’s gateways are a reflection of our unique heritage, our commitment to preserving our Spanish Colonial Revival architectural character and our expectations for quality development and design.” [San Clemente General Plan, Urban Design Element].

Next up; El Camino Offramp
Following the successful development at Calafia, the El Camino Real off-ramp 

Current image shows the closed Tommy’s Restaurant

 area is about to see some major changes as well. All three corners of the intersection at El Camino Real and Avenida Valencia are expected to see new development. The former Tommy’s building will become the new home of Shoreline Dental2 after the project was approved last year. The Planning Commission also approved a new two-story commercial building in 2014, with a restaurant on the ground floor and offices above, at the former Top Tune site. This project was designed by architect Michael Luna, who also designed Raya’s Paradise. Once those conceptual approvals are granted, the developers work with the city and 
 OCFA on construction drawings to make sure that the plans meet all of the safety standards required by the building and fire codes. The southwest corner, a double lot between Valencia and Gaviota, is proposed to become a residential mixed use project with apartments above ground floor commercial space. This lot was home to a gas station, but has sat vacant for over 20 years. The property owners and their architect, Hannibal Petrossi, are currently working with the city’s Design Review Subcommittee to fine tune the architecture.

Long vacant or abandoned, these properties at S. El Camino Real are about to bring a mini Renaissance to this Gateway. And whether you are looking for a new office, a new dentist, some lunch, or maybe even a new place to live, the ECR gateway will offer a fresh look and new services soon.
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