Natural Resources Element (Public Hearing Draft, 5/1/13)
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Biological Resources

San Clemente encompasses significant natural open space areas, including coastal canyons, riparian corridors, and coastal sage scrub-covered hillsides that are home to a variety of native plant and animal species. With much of the City built out, protecting our remaining biological resources for future generations is both a value and a necessity. San Clemente falls within the area covered by the Orange County Southern Subregion Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), a multiple species/multiple habitat conservation plan designed to protect 32 species and ten habitat types, including seven Federally listed species. The HCP covers a planning area of 138,000 acres and creates a permanent habitat reserve of about 33,000 acres and perpetual land management program, while allowing certain development (including infrastructure). The HCP’s planning area is comprised of coastal sage scrub, riparian, chaparral, and grassland habitat and includes threatened and endangered species including Riverside and San Diego Fairy Shrimp, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Coastal California Gnatcatcher, Arroyo Toad, and Least Bell’s Vireo.

Within the City, the Marblehead Coastal Plan identifies approximately 104.1 acres of private open space to be reserved as a wetland restoration/preservation area. This would include the 2.1-acre Blochman’s Dudleya (Dudleya Blochmanae) Native Plant Preserve at the southern corner of the project site.

One of the region’s significant coastal foothills habitat reserve areas, the Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy, is located in the City’s Sphere of Influence and in The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo. The Conservancy monitors numerous sensitive habitats and endangered species, manages the land, restores degraded habitats, and provides environmental educational opportunities and habitat-sensitive recreational opportunities.

The overarching aim of this section is to maintain local and regional biological diversity and to protect and enhance sensitive habitats, species and communities. Policies focusing on conservation of coastal bluffs and canyons are included in the Coastal Element.


Protect and restore significant plant and wildlife species and habitats.


NR-1.01. Information. We acquire and maintain the most current information available regarding the status and location of sensitive biological elements (species and natural communities) and use this information to guide decisions that could affect biological resources.
NR-1.02. Natural Areas. In natural areas that are undeveloped or essentially so, we require applicants for proposed projects to:
  1. avoid significant impacts, including retention of sufficient natural space where appropriate;

  2. retain watercourses, riparian habitat, and wetlands in their natural condition;

  3. maintain habitat linkages (wildlife corridors) between adjacent open spaces, water sources and other habitat areas and incorporated these into transportation projects and other development projects to maintain habitat connectivity;

  4. incorporate visually open fences, or vegetative cover to preserve views, ensure continued access and to buffer habitat areas, open space linkages or wildlife corridors from development, as appropriate;

  5. locate and design roads such that conflicts with biological resources, habitat areas, linkages or corridors are minimized; and

  6. utilize open space or conservation easements when necessary to protect sensitive species or their habitats.
NR-1.03. Sensitive Habitats. We prohibit development and grading which alters the biological integrity of sensitive habitats, including Riparian Corridors unless no feasible project alternative exists which reduces environmental impacts to less than significant levels, or it is replaced with habitat of equivalent value, as acceptable to the City Council.
  1. Where no environmentally feasible alternative exists, development within Riparian Corridors shall avoid removal of native vegetation; prevent erosion, sedimentation and runoff; provide for sufficient passage of native and anadromous fish; prevent wastewater discharges and entrapment; prevent groundwater depletion or substantial interference with surface and subsurface flows; and protect and re-establish natural vegetation buffers.
NR-1.04. Threatened and Endangered Species. We preserve the habitat of threatened and endangered species in place as the preferred habitat conservation strategy.
NR-1.05. Coastal Canyons. We encourage activities which improve the natural biological value, integrity and corridor function of the coastal canyons through vegetation restoration, control of non-native species, and landscape buffering of urban uses and development.
NR-1.06. Habitat Conservation Plan. We support and will follow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Orange County Southern Subregion Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Habitat Management Program.



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