San Clemente : City May Seek to Stem Rash of Building Permits

The City Council will consider adopting an urgency ordinance to prevent backcountry developers from obtaining any more building permits before a new growth-control law goes into effect next month, Community Development Director Harry Weinroth said.

The urgency ordinance would prohibit the issuance of residential building permits for projects larger than four units from March 5 until March 27, when the new law takes effect, he said.

City residents this week voted overwhelmingly to slow down development of 8,000 largely undeveloped acres east of the city, defeating a council-sponsored initiative that would have allowed greater development in that area.

In line with the new law, the city has until late May to establish a Residential Development Evaluation Board, which will award 500 building permits a year to projects chosen by a points system.


“Actually, I think that just about all the permits that could be pulled (processed) in the backcountry have already been pulled,” Weinroth said. “Close to 500 were pulled in January or February; the major tracts have very few left that they could pull by March 5.”

Developers processed permits for a record 1,758 units last year, in large part because of the specter of the tough new growth-control measure and because of a deadline for exempting projects from having to pay fees for the planned Foothill Freeway. Steve Maloney, division manager of Western Savings & Loan Assn., developer of Rancho San Clemente, said he thought that there was “a three- or four-year backlog of building permits out there.”