Death of San Clemente Mayor Steven Swartz creates further turmoil in city already on edge over growing homeless population
SAN CLEMENTE — The unexpected death of Mayor Steven Swartz on Wednesday, May 8, leaves the San Clemente City Council with four seats and a new challenge to fill a vacancy.
It also has led to the cancellation of a special meeting to make public the city’s progress on creating an emergency homeless shelter. Just hours before his death, Swartz had called City Manager James Makshanoff and asked for that meeting to take place next week.
“Out of respect to Mayor Swartz and his family, we asked that the meeting be postponed,” Councilwoman Laura Ferguson said Thursday.
On Tuesday, more than 200 San Clemente residents turned up at City Hall to voice their frustrations over a homeless encampment at North Beach. The growing encampment, residents say, poses risks to public safety and health and violates the Americans With Disabilities Act by blocking access for disabled people.
The impromptu town hall was held in lieu of a scheduled City Council meeting that was canceled due to lack of a quorum, with three council members missing including Swartz, who was vacationing in Palm Springs. During the town hall, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Bane and Ferguson announced the emergency meeting, scheduled for Monday, to address the homeless situation.
At the town hall, Bane promised residents there would be transparency, accountability, an action plan and a timeline on getting a shelter up and running. Until the city has an emergency shelter, law enforcement’s hands are tied on what they can do about the increase in homeless encampments in San Clemente.
Ferguson said she and Bane planned to prepare an agenda item to discuss shelter progress at the May 21 City Council meeting. However, council rules require a majority of the council to approve an item before it can be placed on the agenda. Ferguson said that while she’s not sure she and Bane will get a third vote, there is a clause in the city’s code that says Makshanoff can place the item on the agenda.
The City Council on May 21 also will discuss next steps on filling Swartz’s seat. In the interim, Bane, as the city’s mayor pro tem, will perform mayoral duties.
As part of the government code, the council will have 60 days to fill the vacant seat. If someone has not been selected by then, a special election will be called.