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SAN CLEMENTE : Council Rejects Crowding Rule

More than 100 angry residents demanded this week that the City Council draft an overcrowding ordinance similar to one recently passed in Santa Ana to deal with deteriorating conditions in certain neighborhoods.

The standing-room-only crowd, most of whom were wearing large, red-and-white “Stop! Neighborhood Slumming” buttons, jammed Wednesday’s council meeting to complain of parking problems, urban blight and an increase in crime in their neighborhoods, which they attributed to overcrowding in many rental units.

“You can see 12 people living in a small dwelling with screens hanging off of windows,” said Ann Chapman, a San Clemente resident since 1958. “It is a mess. Sure, the city is fixing up the pier, but you have to drive to the slums to get to it.”

But the council, citing legal hurdles and expenses that Santa Ana has faced this year trying to uphold its overcrowding ordinance, rejected the resident’s requests for a similar measure and instead unanimously adopted the second phase of its Neighborhood Pride Program.

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“No matter how much everybody would like us to adopt an overcrowding ordinance, at the present time it would have no teeth,” said Councilwoman Candace Haggard, citing legal challenges that could cause Santa Ana’s ordinance to be appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court.

The first phase of the Neighborhood Pride Program began last year. City officials say it succeeded in improving a five-block area of West Escalones, West Canada and part of Avenida del Poniente by citing more parking violations, sponsoring a trash cleanup day and working with owners to bring their properties up to city code.

The second phase will expand the program to 52 more streets containing 1,241 properties and 3,722 apartment units. Those areas feature the lowest rents in San Clemente, city officials said.

By endorsing the second phase of the program, the council hopes to take an “aggressive approach” in combatting neighborhood deterioration by decreasing the number of illegally parked cars and improving compliance with city codes. The city will be hiring an additional code enforcement officer and parking patrol officer to make sure the neighborhoods are up to city standards.

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Many residents who attended Wednesday’s meeting criticized the council for not considering stronger measures against overcrowding.

“They did not do a lot of the things that we asked for,” said Dick Mackaig, a property owner and a leader of the Stop Neighborhood Slumming Committee, a newly formed citizens group that is advocating an overcrowding ordinance.

“At least we’ve gotten their attention and there was some progress made,” Mackaig said.


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