By Allison Jarrell
A letter to the city of San Juan Capistrano from Inn at the Mission developer Bill Griffith states that the hotel project’s application has been withdrawn as of Wednesday, Sept. 14.
The Inn at the Mission was a proposed 124-room boutique hotel that was to be operated by Marriott International’s Autograph Collection and constructed at the corner of Ortega Highway and El Camino Real, across from the Mission and adjacent to a historic home.
The Inn at the Mission and the Hotel Capistrano by Kimpton, the latter of which is set to be built between the Egan House and the Esslinger Building along Camino Capistrano, were both unanimously approved by the city’s Planning Commission in July; however, both hotel approvals were appealed in August—Hotel Capistrano was appealed by Attorney Erik Friess on behalf of Griffith, and the Inn at the Mission was appealed twice by San Juan Capistrano resident Marc Weintraub and David Wood of Hotel Capistrano’s developer Stratus Development Partners.
Per the appeal process, both hotels were scheduled for hearings at the Sept. 6 City Council meeting. Dan Friess, principal at Mission Commercial Properties, wrote a letter to the Council asking for a continuance so that the developer could “regroup” and “work with staff to address the issues raised by the appellants.”
“We have been working carefully on the minor architectural modifications to the project for the last year and a half and do not want to jeopardize our project with a hasty response,” Friess wrote. “The project is very important to us and the future economic development of the entire downtown and requires careful consideration. We cannot respond adequately by Tuesday and we require additional time to prepare for the appeal hearing.”
The continuance was granted 4-1, with Councilman John Perry dissenting, and a new hearing for the Inn at the Mission was set for the Sept. 20 Council meeting.
The Council went ahead with its hearing for the Hotel Capistrano on Sept. 6 and approved the project 4-1, with Mayor Pam Patterson dissenting.
When the agenda for the Council’s Sept. 20 meeting was posted, the item for the Inn at the Mission hearing was accompanied by a letter signed by Griffith.
“We are formally withdrawing all of our applications for the modification of the approved Plaza Banderas Hotel and Mixed Use project, also known as Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano,” Griffith wrote, listing the five specific applications that have been withdrawn. “Please do not calendar our project for further City Council review and please immediately halt all staff time on processing of this project.”
The letter did not specify reasons for dropping the project, nor does it clarify whether the developer will move forward with the previously approved Plaza Banderas hotel project, which the site has already been heavily graded for. Jake Griffith, development analyst at Mission Commercial Properties, said in a July interview that the grading was able to begin due to the permits already acquired for the Plaza Banderas project.
Mayor Pam Patterson said in an email that she is “very disappointed with the outcome.”
“I am not happy with the manner in which the city processed the modification of an already approved hotel project at that site, and the residents of our community are ultimately going to be the ones that are going to be hurt,” she wrote.
On Wednesday, Friess told The Dispatch that he has “no comment at this time” regarding why the application was withdrawn or what will come next. Bill Griffith could not be reached for comment.
Tom Brinkman, Marriott’s Sr. Vice President of Lodging Development, West Region, declined to comment on the hotel application.