About 400 people Monday night implored, begged, demanded and politely requested that the San Clemente City Council decide the future of the 250-acre Marblehead Coastal property, the last large parcel of undeveloped coastland in the city.
But after at least four hours of debate, council members had not taken action late Monday night on the proposal, which includes 434 single-family homes, a 61-acre shopping center and a 14-acre canyon preserve.
Supporters say the development would help the city while detractors argue that the proposal would damage the image and character of the charming seaside community.
One speaker, Dorothy Fuller, told the council that "San Clemente was planned as a dream city, not a city of commerce." Her comment brought a loud round of applause from the audience.
Another resident, My Thu disagreed.
"We need a shopping center close to home so we don't have to get on a freeway every time we want to go shopping," she told the council.
About half of audience wore bright yellow badges that said, "I Support Marblehead Coastal."
Many speakers asked the council to review the original plan, calling for a resort hotel and golf course.
Developer Jim Johnson told the council the area was the best commercial site remaining in the county and that the development would be good for the community and would become a popular location for shoppers.
San Clemente "is going to become a mini-shopping mecca, and the reason we moved here was to get away from that and to be close to the ocean," said Diana Christinson, who in March organized San Clemente Citizens for Responsible Development. The Planning Commission voted May 18 to recommend the City Council's approval of a change in the original development plans.
Hundreds of residents attended Planning Commission meetings, some speaking passionately against the proposal, fearful of its effects on traffic and local merchants' businesses.
Some residents prefer an older development plan that would have included 300 homes, a golf course, resort and restaurants.
"They keep talking about this new plan generating tax revenue for the city, but a resort hotel would help generate tax dollars for existing merchants," resident Wayne Eggleston said.
"What they want to build will be just another tract development. And a 21-screen movie theater? That would be totally out of character for San Clemente."
But supporters of the project say that the community will benefit, especially in light of recent budget cuts.
Under the proposed plan, developers would donate $250,000 to the city's library and $1 million each to downtown businesses and senior citizens programs, in addition to a $4.2-million contribution to San Clemente schools and $7.2 million to fund the construction of Interstate 5 freeway access ramps at Avenida Vista Hermosa.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
The latest development proposal includes 434 single-family homs, a 61-acre shopping center and a 14-acre canyon preserve.