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City of San Clemente

Known as the Spanish Village by the Sea, the city of San Clemente is one of the first master planned communities in the U.S built entirely from open land. Today, San Clemente is one of the safest cities in California and is the southernmost city in Orange County. San Clemente is a laid back coastal community with colonial Spanish-style architecture. Surf-culture radiates throughout the beachside community from the shops on Avenida Del Mar to the organized events near the pier to the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center. The City of San Clemente profile includes city history and information for residential services, shopping, dining, and points of interest throughout the city.

City of San Clemente, California
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About San Clemente

City Of San Clemente

The City of San Clemente is located in south Orange County approximately 60 miles south of Los Angeles and 58 miles north of San Diego. Bordered by Dana PointSan Juan Capistrano, and Mission Viejo to the north, San Clemente separates Orange County from Camp Pendleton and San Diego County to the south.

The population of San Clemente grew significantly from 2000 to 2016, from 16,000 to more than 66,000 residents. While some of the residents are able to find employment within the city at employers like Capistrano Unified School District, ICU Medical, and the City of San Clemente, others commute outside the city for work. Some commuters are only a short drive away to surrounding cities, others commute to business centers like Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego.

When they’re not working, many residents head for the beach. San Clemente State Beach and T-Street Beach are the main beaches in the San Clemente area with Trestles and San Onofre lying just south of the San Clemente border serving as additional popular surf spots for local wave hunters. San Clemente State Beach offers more than just surfing. Swimming, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and body surfing are other water-based activities, while on the beach, sun bathing and surf fishing are popular. There are nature trails to explore, bluff-top camping, picnic areas and a visitor center that offers educational and junior ranger programs.

There’s plenty of action around the San Clemente Pier. Beachgoers flock to the sand, while others stroll along the pedestrian beach trail. The downtown area extends from the pier onto Avenida Del Mar and surrounding streets. This area is a gathering spot for the community for a variety of events, including the monthly Village Art Faire and the annual San Clemente Ocean Festival. Shoppers browse the stores throughout the downtown area for a variety of gifts and apparel and access multiple services and unique dining options.

City of San Clemente

For additional shopping and dining, The Outlets at San Clemente offers 60 stores and restaurants plus a variety of entertainment options. Visitors will find everything they need from home décor and gifts, to shoes and apparel for the whole family.

Overall, the city of San Clemente is a modern family community with sophisticated old-time charm.

San Clemente History

The plans for the city of San Clemente were originally rejected. But Ole Hanson, the town founder and planner for the city, whitewashed the unpaved roads of the empty community and developed a marketing brochure advertising real estate in the area. Hanson held a real estate presentation in 1925 with free hot meals and laid out his plans for interested parties. Lot prices ranged from $300 to $1500 each, and within six months, Hansen sold a record-setting 1,200 lots for his Spanish Village.

Hanson’s master plan included a city based on Spanish Colonial architectural style with restaurants, a clubhouse, residences, public parks, a public pool, a fishing pier, and equestrian trails. Homes were built according to strict Spanish Colonial Revival style guidelines, with red tile roofs and whitewashed stucco walls. To meet the growing city’s needs, a tile and wrought iron foundry were established in town.

Hanson’s own home was built in 1928 on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The Great Depression eventually forced Hanson to leave his home, and after going through a string of other owners and suffering the effects of neglect, the property was eventually rescued by a group of local activists. The property was restored and is now Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens and serves as a venue for visual arts, educational programming, and gardens.

Hanson also built the historic Ole Hanson Beach Club in 1928. The Beach Club was used for tryouts for the 1932 Olympic Games. Today the beach club is used for weddings and events and in the off hours the City of San Clemente operates year-round community-based swimming and recreation classes.

Historic Ole Hanson Beach Club
Ole Hanson Beach Club

Another Historic residence in San Clemente is La Casa Pacifica, a nearly six-acre property that belonged to President Nixon from 1969 through the late 1980s. The Western White House, as it was once called, overlooks the ocean, played host to leaders from around the world, and entertained presidents past and future, among others. When Nixon retired, he retreated to La Casa Pacifica to write his memoirs. Today, the house is on the market for more than $60 million.

Orange County Beaches - San Clemente
Orange County Piers
Best Orange County Surf Spots

San Clemente Statistics

Size: Approximately 19 Square Miles 
Population: 64,293 (2020)

Things to Do in San Clemente

Arts & Culture

San Clemente Sunset

San Clemente Community


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Heidi Deal
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights. When she's not writing you can find her solo hiking and going on new adventures with her kids and pup.