Camino Estrella looks like any other part of San Clemente. Those unfamiliar with the area wouldn't even know they'd entered a different city if it weren't for the boulder-like sign welcoming travelers to “Capistrano Beach, The City of Dana Point.”
With its red brick rooftops, Capistrano Beach looks more like the Spanish city by the sea than the Cape Cod design that is predominant in Dana Point.
Capo Beach residents Allan Seymour and Donna Dyke say when it came to incorporation in the late '80s, most residents they knew would have preferred to become a part of San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente because they had more in common with those cities. Instead, they became a part of Dana Point in 1989.
It was a rocky path to cityhood. It took more than five attempts over 30 years before Dana Point finally became recognized as the 28th city of Orange County. All the while, the city had to dodge being gobbled up by the neighboring cities of San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and Laguna Niguel.
Capistrano Beach's history of incorporation involved trying to protect itself and Dana Point from being assumed by San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, according to the Dana Point Historical Society's booklet celebrating the 20-year-anniversary of Dana Point.
Originally, leaders from Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and Capistrano Beach talked about incorporating into one city in the late '50s. But San Juan Capistrano went ahead on its own. In 1961, Capo Beach voted to remain unincorporated to protect Dana Point from San Juan, according to the booklet. Five years later, Capo Beach began looking to incorporate to avoid being annexed by San Juan. The area eventually joined with Dana Point in the late '80s at the suggestion of members of the Local Agency Formation Commission – the county agency that approves incorporation.
The booklet quotes Capo Beach resident Terri Lucarelli as saying “for Capistrano Beach, cityhood has always meant a way to protect its borders.”
San Clemente did not formally propose incorporating Capo Beach.
“I think (San Clemente) would have loved to have Capo Beach, but nothing official ever came before the council,” said Candy Haggard, a San Clemente councilwoman from 1988 to 1996.
San Juan Capistrano and Capistrano Beach always had a close relationship, said Don Tryon, member of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. Tryon recalled a conversation with a former city manager who said Capo Beach was not interested in incorporation when San Juan Capistrano became a city in 1961.
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