By Shawn Raymundo
The Orange County Court recently denied a motion from the Plaza Banderas hotel developer who had sought an award of attorney’s fees in his lawsuit against a competing hotel project and the city.
The ruling from Judge Peter Wilson came down Jan. 10 when, during a hearing, SPM-Fairfield, LLC, which local developer Bill Griffith owns, petitioned the court to require the city of San Juan Capistrano and the developers of the Hotel Capistrano project to pay for SPM’s legal fees associated with the lawsuit.
In a preliminary ruling, the court found that Griffith’s “significant financial stake” to file the lawsuit, challenging the rival Hotel Capistrano project, was sufficient enough to “incur the substantial attorney fees and costs in the vigorous prosecution.”
“SPM has failed to meet its burden of establishing its litigation costs transcend its personal pecuniary interest,” court documents show.
The ruling also notes the Hotel Capistrano project “would have resulted in what would have undoubtedly been a competing hotel establishment, directly and likely negatively affecting the value of (the Griffith family’s) economic interests in their fully entitled Plaza Banderas development.”
Griffith filed the lawsuit in 2016 over the legality of the city’s approval of the Hotel Capistrano project. The suit claims the project “violates many provisions of the city’s general plan, other plans and planning policies established by the city, and the city’s municipal code.”
The court had previously ruled against the city last March.
The planned Hotel Capistrano project, which O’Neill Strategic Investments recently acquired from local resident Steve Oedekerk’s O Properties, would have been a 4-star, 102-room hotel and restaurant in the city’s downtown area on Camino Capistrano—adjacent to properties Griffith also owns.
Griffith’s plans for Plaza Banderas, also known as the Inn at the Mission, hotel project is designed to be a 124-room hotel on Ortega Highway next to Mission San Juan Capistrano.