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By C. Jayden Smith
The San Clemente City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, May 3 to initiate an ordinance to regulate public bicycle repairs.
In Councilor Kathy Ward’s absence, council asked staff to begin the process of amending the city’s municipal code to curb bicycle theft and the resale of parts.
Although the Public Safety Committee had previously voted to recommend that the council not initiate the order, in part because of concerns about enforceability, the council went the other way.
Similar Long Beach and Huntington Beach ordinances were enacted in an effort to curb bike theft and property crime, setting the stage for Tuesday’s ruling.
The Long Beach version, which was enacted in 2018, prohibits the assembly or disassembly, sale, distribution or storage of three or more bicycles; a bicycle frame with cut cables; two or more with missing parts; or at least five separate parts on public property such as a sidewalk or park.
Huntington Beach, which followed suit in 2020, issued an ordinance with the same restrictions.
Rick Loeffler, a member of the Public Safety Committee who was absent from the aforementioned vote, spoke on Tuesday evening to defend the ordinance. He cited a press release from the Long Beach Police Department that noted a significant reduction in bike theft following the passage of its own ordinance.
Loeffler played down any doubts about enforceability, as the impact of enforcing the order would ultimately be less than that of some other factor.
“It’s voluntary compliance (which) I think will have a significant effect on that,” he said. “You have a law against doing that on (public property), people don’t want to bother the police for something so minor.”
As part of the city staff’s input to the public safety committee meeting, Adam Atamian, deputy director of the community development department, recommended adding more to the city’s own ordinance in regards to of Long Beach.
Atamian explained that San Clemente would benefit from more restrictive rules.
“Even the Long Beach ordinance still allows someone to have a certain number of complete bicycles and disassembled bicycle parts, as well as a certain number of bicycle parts,” he said.
Councilman Steve Knoblock called bike theft and related illicit activity a “serious” local problem, recalling time spent in the North Beach area last week when he saw many bikes and parts right in front of Beach Hut Deli.
He said the ordinance would improve the quality of life in the city and eliminate “bike shops,” which are organized efforts to dismantle stolen bikes and sell parts before police departments can recover the bike.
Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan shared his own experience near Beach Hut Deli, regarding a visit he made on Tuesday afternoon during which he and a resident spoke with two deputy sheriffs working with Park Rangers in the area .
“One of the things that has become clear is that the more tools the deputies have, the more ability they have to control what is happening in this area of North Beach which has become very difficult to manage,” said said Duncan. “Individuals happened to have a bunch of bikes in the same place that Steve saw; I think that prescription would have helped.
This interaction encouraged him to change his way of thinking from a stance that normally follows the guidelines of the Public Safety Committee.
Another strong supporter was Mayor Gene James, who felt bike theft was a pressing issue, along with the number of parts seen at San Clemente homeless encampments.
City Manager Erik Sund confirmed that the resulting ordinance will combine input from multiple sources within city government.
“With the latitude given to direct staff to write an order, it will be a potpourri of staff input, as well as the use of Long Beach and other orders to ensure that we have a very tight order to enforce. “said Sund.
He estimated that the first reading will take place in June.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothers his black lab named Shadow.
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