By Collin Breaux
The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved an intent to sell the downtown Camino Real Playhouse property to local developer Dan Almquist—a move that essentially moves along Almquist’s redevelopment plan for the property.
The approval was unanimous—with Councilmember John Taylor abstaining because he lives nearby in the Los Rios Historic District—during a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The city reached an exclusive negotiating agreement with Almquist in 2017.
Almquist plans to build a four-story parking structure and office and retail space at what is now the Playhouse and a parking lot. The project would cause the demolition of the current Playhouse property. Almquist has promised to develop a new performing arts center for downtown San Juan, but that aspect was not included in the redevelopment plans for the Playhouse property. Debates have kicked up from some Playhouse representatives and residents on whether a new performing arts center will be built.
Mayor Pro Tem Howard Hart and City Council District 3 candidate John Campbell, who is also the treasurer and on the board of the Playhouse, have previously explained the sale is essentially due to state regulations. The property was owned by the state and given to the city 30 years ago as a part of redevelopment, though the state has reportedly now called back the lending. The state has required the city to sell the property by this December.
City officials were concerned about the possibility of large affordable housing complexes with no parking being built at the site if Almquist’s plans were not approved.
Councilmembers did not comment on the matter during Tuesday’s meeting.
A public hearing will be held on Nov. 1 for further City Council consideration.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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