By Shawn Raymundo

UPDATE: The city’s Design Review Committee on Thursday, Jan. 10, conceptually approved Protea Capital Partners’ designs for a memory care facility in San Juan Capistrano. The three-member commission approved the plans with the caveats that the developer would make additional minor changes to the design.

Such changes include moving some windows away from corners, adding mullions to the windows and rework some of the corbelled areas. The approval completes the required environmental analysis, which will eventually be made public for comments as part of a 21-day review period.

According to Assistant City Manager Jacob Green, the environmental document will be released for public review in the coming days. The next step is for Protea’s proposal to go before the Planning Commission, which could begin considering the plans by late February.

Original Story: Plans to develop and construct a new senior living facility in San Juan Capistrano is under consideration among city officials.

Protea Capital Partners, a senior living facility developer, has proposed building a 72-bed memory care facility on Avenida Los Cerritos, near the I-5 Freeway and Ortega Highway intersection. The 35,349-square-foot living center is intended to provide mental, social and physical health services to residents who are experiencing a decline in cognitive functions.

Protea’s proposal to the city includes rezoning the use of the land from commercial office to assisted living. The plans also seek to demolish two single-family residences that are both vacant and owned by South Coast Assembly Church.

The residences “were previously used by the church for staff housing and offices,” Assistant City Manager Jacob Green said in an email. “The former residences would be demolished to accommodate the proposed memory care center, which would be developed on a separate parcel unrelated to the church.”

Pending approvals from the city’s Design Review Committee, Planning Commission and City Council over the coming weeks, the new senior living community could open in the summer of 2020, said Protea co-founder Greg Spiro. The facility was initially scheduled to open spring 2020.

“It really depends how quickly it takes to get the building permit,” Spiro said. “If we can get the building permit, (then) it’s still possible to get it done (by spring), but it may be closer to the summer.”

As part of the California Environmental Quality Act, the proposal has been going through an environmental analysis, which also entails the city’s Design Review Committee to examine the architectural design plans, Green explained.

During the design committee’s Dec. 13 meeting, members recommended some modifications based on their concerns regarding the proposed building’s architecture, which is supposed to incorporate a Spanish-style aesthetic.

Some comments from the review committee were that the “architectural plan does not appear to be Spanish architecture due to details of windows, arches, and mixture of materials” and the “architectural style should be consistent throughout the building.”

“They wanted us to be pretty clear to the design that we’re putting forward … more in line with the architecture with San Juan Capistrano,” Spiro said, adding that the proposal had always incorporated Spanish Colonial design. “That was always the plan; they just had a different interpretation of how we saw it.”

Spiro said Protea has since made the revisions, which were presented to the Design Review Committee on Thursday, Jan. 10.

The city’s agenda report, forwarded to the Design Review Committee for its Jan. 10 meeting, recommended that the plans be approved and forwarded to the Planning Commission. The results of the meeting could not be included in this report as of press time.

Green told The Capistrano Dispatch on Wednesday, Dec. 9, that if the design committee finds the revisions and overall proposal acceptable, the environmental review document could be completed. After that, Green said, the environmental review would be released to the public for comment and review.

“The public will have 21 days to submit any comments to the city regarding the conclusions of the environmental analysis,” Green wrote in the email.

“Once the public comment on the environmental document concludes, the project applications will be presented to the city’s Planning Commission for consideration and then the Planning Commission’s recommendation will be presented to the City Council for final action,” Green wrote.

Prior to the Jan. 10 meeting, Spiro said he was hopeful the review committee would approve the proposal, allowing it to move forward. He said Protea is currently scheduled to present the plans to the city’s Planning Commission in early February, and if that goes favorably, the proposal could go before City Council in March.

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