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SAN CLEMENTE : Group Wants Law on Overcrowding

A group of property owners who say their neighborhood is deteriorating because of overcrowding and crime will ask the City Council to consider drafting an overcrowding ordinance.

The group, which calls itself the Stop Neighborhood Slumming Committee, says overcrowding has decreased the availability of parking and increased crime and trash in a five-block area of single-family homes and apartment buildings along West Escalones, West Canada and a portion of Avenida del Poniente.

“This section of the city has been on rapid decline,” said committee member John Koch, a 16-year resident of the area. “It’s gotten so bad so that people who used to walk around the neighborhood at night don’t anymore because it’s intimidating.”

Koch and about six other property owners recently distributed 1,000 flyers to area residents and businesses in an attempt to gather support for an overcrowding ordinance, as well as tougher enforcement of parking, health and safety codes. The group, which is seeking an overcrowding ordinance similar to one passed earlier this year in Santa Ana, plans to plead its case before the council on Wednesday.

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City Manager Michael W. Parness said Monday that the area has been a trouble spot, but added that the city has addressed many of the problems through its Neighborhood Pride Program, which began last year.

Since the Neighborhood Pride Program began in October, 1990, 73 citations have been issued to property owners for code violations, 14 homes have been repainted and there has been an increase in police patrols and parking citations, Parness said.

Parness, who will present a status report on the program to the council on Wednesday, said that the city and the property owners agree on most methods of cleaning up the area, but that an overcrowding ordinance is not likely to be considered.

“We’re doing some of what they want already,” said Parness, who recently met with the group. “But when it comes to an overcrowding ordinance, we can’t agree. They are concerned that people may be living in garages and we simply can’t go in and check people’s homes and garages--it’s just not legal.”

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Last month, an appellate court temporarily blocked Santa Ana’s overcrowding ordinance, which limits occupancy of an average one-bedroom apartment to five people. It will not take effect until further appeals are heard.


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