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San Clemente: The Spanish City by the Sea

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San Clemente: The Spanish City by the Sea © Curtis Fry
San Clemente is an Orange County beach city, bordering San Diego County, designed and developed by a former Seattle mayor, Ole Hanson. The “Spanish city by the sea” was envisioned by Hanson as a family oasis away from the bustle of the city. With plenty of beach access and a plethora of outdoor recreation, San Clemente is an seaside suburb with local charm and an active village lifestyle.

A Brief History:

The area currently called San Clemente was inhabited almost exclusively by Native Americans until the late 18th century, when a Spanish priest established Mission San Juan Capistrano. In the 1920s a former Seattle governor named Ole Hanson developed San Clemente as a family oriented, Spanish-style seaside suburb. In 1969, Richard Nixon purchased a vacation home which he nicknamed the La Casa Pacifica.

Lay of the Land:

San Clemente covers an area of approximately 19.5 square miles. The city is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the north by Dana Point and to the northeast by San Juan Capistrano. To the south is the San Diego border, the famed surfing spot, San Onefre State Beach, and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. To the east, San Clemente is bordered by a huge unincorporated area that stretches around the southeastern edge of Orange County, and includes nearly 10,000-acres of wilderness reserve, limestone canyons and the Santa Ana Mountains.

Housing & Real Estate:

As envisioned by the city's patriarch, Spanish-style architecture dominates San Clemente. Typical of many coastal areas in southern California, the cost of living -- and real estate -- in this O.C. "Spanish city by the sea" is well above the state average. While beachfront housing comes with a premium $1-3 million price tag, real estate values in San Clemente have been declining since 2009. In fact, many homes sell well below the median property value estimates.
Median rent: $1,460
Median house or condo value: $731,000

San Clemente Schools:

Capistrano Unified School District serves the city of San Clemente, along with seven other surrounding cities in south Orange County. While the district has recently been plagued with labor disputes, the CUSD has a history of academic excellence, with nearly half a dozen California Distinguished Schools and a handful of other National Blue Ribbon winners. CUSD is also a relatively diverse south county school district, which it embraces with programs such as Spanish and Mandarin language immersion programs.

Shopping & Dining:

The area just south of the I-5 on Avenida Del Mar is considered downtown San Clemente. Not only is this the most walkable part of the city, but it is also the heart of historic San Clemente -- Old City Plaza -- and the place to find chic eateries and bars. The Del Mar strip also features local retailers, selling everything from flowers, clothing, and shoes, to antiques, novelty items and knitting supplies. Even further south down Del Mar, near the pier and San Clamente Beach Trail, is where resorts, oceanfront dining, fresh fish and a local bowling alley can be found.

Recreation & Attractions:

San Clemente is an active community with many recreational options for kids and adults. T-Street Beach is a favorite spot for body boarding and the Ole Hanson Beach Club hosts many city aquatic programs. Additional sports programs are available at local parks, including adult league sports and skateboarding at the Ralphs Skate Court. Check the city website for information on specific recreational activities and classes in your area. The San Clemente Beach, Forster Ridgeline, Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline, San Juan Creek and other local trails provide options for hiking and biking. The Ocean Festival is one of San Clemente's most popular annual events, which includes a surfing and body boarding contests, a 5K race, a fishing derby and other marine sporting events.

San Clemente by the Numbers:

Population: 62,522
Median Age: 39
Median Income: $82,393
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