San Clemente residents often think of their town as paradise—where the 1920’s vision of a Spanish Village by the Sea still lingers, the sun shines 342 days a year and the conveniences of metropolitan Southern California are balanced by fresh ocean air and beaches untouched by time. Just 75 years ago, most of the coastal land between Los Angeles and San Diego was no more than barren rolling hills covered with mustard and sagebrush. San Clemente was no exception.
A unique combination of personality, foresight, luck, and a good dose of marketing savvy transformed this stretch of land. But unlike so many other communities in the region, San Clemente’s geographical isolation helped protect its small-town charm from the homogeneous urban sprawl that permeates so much of this region.
As town founder Ole Hanson said in the late 1920s, “I get credit for building San Clemente. I am doing my best, but San Clemente’s development was as natural as a well-watered and fertilized tree to grow. It is on the coast. Its climate is superb. It is far enough from San Diego and Los Angeles to fill a real necessity. Besides, people love the beautiful things.”