One of the ways San Clemente hopes to redo its image and attract new tourist dollars is by banking on a familiar name--Richard M. Nixon.
About $20 million of the $25.5 million needed for the planned Richard Nixon Presidential Library has been raised, said Tony DiGiovanni, chairman of Mariners Bank in San Clemente and a director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Archives Foundation.
The 80,000-square-foot, Spanish-style library will be built with private funds on a 13-acre oceanfront site in the Marblehead coastal development project. An adjacent 300-room hotel is also planned for the site.
"Wherever I've gone in this world, you mention San Clemente and people talk about Nixon," DiGiovanni said. "This will keep us on the map and bring in a lot of tourists--half a million a year--but it's something of importance for the country, and the whole world."
The library will contain Nixon's entire presidential archives, making it a destination of immense interest to scholars who wish to study the Nixon presidency, which saw the Vietnam War come to an end and a thawing of relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China, as well as Watergate. Ground breaking could begin on the project "in about a year," DiGiovanni said.
Other presidential libraries have been built with private funds and then turned over to the federal government for operation.
The Nixon library, however, will remain in the foundation's hands until a dispute from the Watergate era can be resolved.
In 1974, Congress placed most of Nixon's papers and tape recordings under federal control. While all of the documents are to be deposited in the library, DiGiovanni said that Nixon wants control over which documents are to be made available to the public.
The papers in question are not related to Watergate but are sensitive, and their being made public would not be fair to living members of the Nixon administration, DiGiovanni said.
Once the dispute is resolved, the library could be turned over to the National Archives, DiGiovanni said.