City of San Clemente Wants California Supreme Court to Overturn Developer’s Lawsuit Victory
Although the parcel is small — just under 3 acres — the city is pursuing the case to discourage future lawsuits, and because the surrounding Avenida San Juan neighborhood has opposed the plot’s development.
“People in the neighborhood are nearly unanimous and very vocal in their opposition,” said City Attorney Jeff Oderman. “If this had been a project where there had been a division of opinion in the neighborhood, [the city] may not have gone the extra mile.”
A landowner wants to subdivide a 2.85-acre parcel at 404 Avenida San Juan and build four homes overlooking the I-5 freeway at the south end of town. In 1993, the city zoned the area “very low residential,” meaning it would allow only one single-family home per 20 acres, the practical outcome of which is to maintain open space, according to court documents.
A 1983 landslide in the neighborhood prompted a petition drive to zone the area as open space, although the slide didn’t involve that property. The City Council at that time didn’t reclassify the land, according to court documents.
The city asserts it has the right to zone as it sees fit, and that the landowner failed to challenge the 1993 zoning amendment within the statute of limitations, Oderman said.
The property owner, Avenida San Juan Partnership, sued in late 2007 when the council denied development plan based on the zoning amendment. The partnership said it obtained permission to subdivide the lot in 1983, three years after buying the parcel. The lawsuit also claims the plaintiff wasn’t notified of the zoning change in 1993, and notes that none of the surrounding properties comply with that zoning, so the rule is discriminatory.