The Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library will be built in the former President's birthplace of Yorba Linda and not in San Clemente, where a four-year delay in getting the project approved drove Nixon away, his top spokesman said Friday.
"Yorba Linda is the site of the library," said John Taylor, Nixon's personal assistant.
Taylor's statement confirms what has been described for the last month as a "handshake agreement" between the Richard Nixon Presidential Archives Foundation and the City of Yorba Linda to build the library there.
Taylor said Nixon wants the $25-million library next to the house where he was born, rather than adjacent to the site of his seaside Western White House.
Nixon, 74, would not consent to an interview Friday, but made his first public comment on the library issue in nearly four years in a recent letter to a San Clemente newspaper. Nixon stated his appreciation for an editorial that cast blame on a "bumbling City Council" for endlessly delaying approval of the library.
The council granted final approval to the project in September, but by then the archives foundation already was seeking an alternative site in Yorba Linda.
"We are delighted Yorba Linda is receiving us so warmly," Taylor said in a telephone interview from Nixon's New York City office. "The (Yorba Linda) City Council has been quick and expeditious to act to appropriate a substantial amount of money."
The city is in the process of purchasing six acres of property from the Yorba Linda School District for $1.3 million and estimates that the library could be completed a year from now at the earliest.
The foundation raised $25 million to build the library itself from private donors.
Yorba Linda City Manager Arthur Simonian would not comment on Friday, but said through a spokeswoman that the details of the city's agreement with the archives foundation should be completed soon.
The San Clemente City Council in 1984 approved preliminary plans for the library but final approval was delayed because the 16.7-acre library site was attached to a controversial 253-acre residential and commercial development, known as the Marblehead Coastal Plan.
The developer, the Lusk Co. of Irvine, was waiting for the city's approval of the entire project before it would donate the bluff-top library site.
San Clemente was scheduled to reach an agreement with Lusk by July 1, but late-night public hearings over the project's massive grading and other developmental concerns postponed the decision until Sept. 2. The project that was eventually approved includes 1,198 homes, three hotels, a commercial center, a civic center and a bluff-top park, as well as the library.
Further Approval Needed
However, the project still requires approval by the California Coastal Commission, which could take another six months to one year.
This week, two San Clemente residents began organizing a recall effort against all five City Council members, stating that the community has lost confidence in its leaders because of the library issue.
San Clemente City Councilman Brian Rice said he and other city officials were upset that Nixon chose to express himself through an after-the-fact letter in a newspaper, rather than speaking directly to them during the approval process.
"If Nixon was concerned about the time element, he should have contacted us (City Council members)."
Rice said the city worked as quickly as it could without bending to the whims of the developer.
Spokesman Taylor said that it has been Nixon's policy to let Taylor or the archives foundation representatives speak for him, and that he will not make any public comments or consent to telephone interviews.
"But my guess is he will be there in Yorba Linda for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and he will talk then," Taylor said.
Due largely to the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon's resignation in 1974, his library will differ in many respects from the eight other libraries of U.S. Presidents. Unlike other presidential libraries, the Nixon archive will be operated privately, by the foundation, rather than by the federal government. This is because the 1974 Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act gives custody of all of Nixon's papers and tape recordings to the National Archives and requires that they remain in Washington.
No Presidential Papers
Thus, the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda will not house any of the former President's official papers from his presidential years. According to the foundation, the library will house Nixon's vice presidential documents and his personal papers and a museum will house memorabilia.
Nixon is negotiating with the government to regain control over his presidential papers, and foundation officials said they hope that eventually the papers will be housed in the library.