Urban Design Element (Public Hearing Draft, 5/1/13)
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Public Places

Public places help give San Clemente its unique identity and are a prominent aspect of the built environment. They include parks, plazas, roadways, sidewalks, alleys and similar public spaces. Sometimes referred to as the “public realm”, these places can serve multiple community uses and help promote social interaction, community events, outdoor dining, recreation and relaxation.

San Clemente’s public places are well-designed and are accessible to everyone, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Their appearance and quality is at the heart of how we perceive the urban environment. As such, it is essential the public realm is safe, enriching and well-maintained.

Furthermore, because we value art and culture in San Clemente, we incorporate both within the public realm.


Create and maintain a network of prominent, accessible, high-quality public places with clear visual and physical linkages.


UD-1.01. Location of Public Buildings and Civic Places. We locate public buildings and civic places on primary or secondary streets, at important street intersections or viewpoints, adjacent to parks or open space, or as focus points for a neighborhood to ensure their visual prominence and accessibility.
UD-1.02. Design of Public Plazas and Spaces. We require public plazas and spaces to be designed for safety, comfort, convenience and universal accessibility. They should be well-defined by surrounding buildings, located near the public street for good visibility and convenience and incorporate amenities such as seating, distinctive focal points, public art, shade trees and/or eating and entertainment facilities.
UD-1.03. Landscaping. We emphasize the prominence of public places and their linkages to adjacent neighborhoods by creating a distinctive landscape character around them and extending the landscape improvements into neighboring streets, such as extending special paving or landscape treatments.
UD-1.04. Bicycle, Pedestrian and Transit Access. We maintain bicycle and pedestrian routes and encourage the provision of public transit routes that link public places to improve accessibility and reduce reliance on the automobile.
UD-1.05. Streetscape Design. We design new and, when necessary, retrofit existing streets to strengthen connectivity, beautify and enhance community character through public right-of-way improvements, including sidewalks, street trees, parkways, curbs, signs, street lighting and street furniture.
UD-1.06. Streets. We recognize that public streets are important public spaces as well as transportation routes and support their use for occasional closure for community events, where feasible. As such, sidewalks, street trees, landscaping, and other amenities should be provided and maintained to keep these spaces attractive.
UD-1.07. Sidewalks. We design our sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians in a manner that meets City standards and we seek to ensure they are ADA compliant, well lit, safe, comfortable and consistent in style and construction materials. Sidewalk designs and paving materials shall be architecturally compatible with the district or neighborhood in which they are located.
UD-1.08. Wayfinding. We maintain an attractive, unified citywide system of signage, streetscape and landscaping to clearly mark directions to public buildings, parks, beaches, the Del Mar/T-Zone, North Beach, Pier Bowl, public parking areas, prominent natural features and City entry points.
UD-1.09. Signs. We require quality, balance, consistency, and the use of high quality materials in the design of public and private signs, including commercial signs, municipal signs, and street and traffic signs. Signs should be compatible with the architectural character of buildings on which they are placed, prevailing streetscape character and surrounding community character, and should be not be visually obtrusive.
UD-1.10. Non-Conforming Signs. We require replacement of non-conforming signs wherever possible and appropriate, through such mechanisms as sign amortization programs or conditions of project entitlements.
UD-1.11. Phasing of Public Spaces. We require the provision of accessible public space in the earliest possible phase of new development.


*For purposes of the Centennial General Plan, public spaces are defined as the publicly owned property between the property lines on opposite sides of streets and include, but is not limited to, the roadway, parkway (including street tree planters and public, sidewalks), plazas and alleys.

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