San Clemente is a city in Orange County, California, United States. As of 2005, the city population was 65,338. San Clemente is the southernmost city in the county, six miles south of San Juan Capistrano. Its location makes it the only city in Orange County closer to San Diego than to Los Angeles.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the area was inhabited by what came to be known as the Juaneno Indians. After the founding of the Mission San Juan Capistrano, the local natives were conscripted to work for the mission.
The great city of San Clemente was founded in 1925 by real estate developer Ole Hanson who named it San Clemente after a town in Spain, as it were San Clemente Island was named after the city later since it is directly west of the coast. Hanson envisioned it as a Spanish-style coastal resort, a “Spanish Village by the Sea.” In an unprecedented move, he had a clause added to the deeds requiring all building plans to be submitted to an architectural review board in an effort to ensure that future development would retain some Spanish-style influence (for example, for many years it was required that all new buildings in the downtown area have red tile roofs). It was incorporated in 1928 with a council-manager government.
Nixon’s “Western White House”
In 1968 President Richard Nixon bought the H. H. Cotton estate, one of the original homes built by one of Hanson’s partners. Nixon called it “La Casa Pacifica,” but it was nicknamed the “Western White House”, a term now commonly used for a President’s vacation home. It sits above one of the West Coast’s premier surfing spots, Trestles, and just north of historic surfing beach San Onofre. During Nixon’s tenure it was visited by world leaders and cronies alike, including Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Henry Kissinger, and Bebe Rebozo. Following his resignation, Nixon retired to San Clemente to write his memoirs. He later sold the home and moved to Park Ridge, New Jersey. The property also has historical tie to the democratic side of the aisle; prior to Nixon’s tenure at the estate, H.H. Cotton was known to host Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would visit to play cards in a small outbuilding overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
San Clemente catches swells all year long. Going from South to North, they include Trestles (technically just south of the city line), North Gate, State Park, Riviera, Lost Winds, Lasuen, The Hole, Beach House, T-Street, The Pier, 204, North Beach, and Poche.
San Clemente is also the surfing media capital of the world as well as a premier surfing destination. It is home to Surfing Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal, and Longboard Magazine, with Surfer Magazine just up the freeway in San Juan Capistrano.
The city has a large concentration of surfboard shapers and manufacturers. Additionally, many world renowned surfers were raised in San Clemente or took up long-term residence in town, including Shane Beschen, Matt Archbold, Christian Fletcher, Mike Parsons (originally from Laguna Beach), Colin McPhillips, Colleen Mehlberg, Dino Andino, Chris Ward, and many, many others.