Above is an illustration of what the proposed San Juan Hotel & Villas project would look like from the corner of Camino Capistrano and Forster Street. Courtesy of Urban Village Development
Above is an illustration of what the proposed San Juan Hotel & Villas project would look like from the corner of Camino Capistrano and Forster Street. Courtesy of Urban Village Development

By Brian Park

A proposal to build a 136-room hotel and 33 townhomes in downtown San Juan Capistrano may now be in jeopardy, the developer said Wednesday, because of the landowner’s decision to pull out of the project due to another delay in the process.

The City Council was scheduled to consider Urban Village’s $43 million San Juan Hotel & Villas project Thursday, but a final determination will not be made until August 5.

Mayor Sam Allevato said the council will still hold a public hearing, as well as consider amending the Historic Town Center Master Plan and city code to allow for the townhomes.

Delaying a final vote, however, has compelled movie producer and the owner of the site, Steve Oedekerk, to not extend the purchase agreement for the land, said Joshua Host, principal of Urban Village.

“At this point, the project is dead because we don’t have a property anymore,” Host said. “Steve just lost faith in the process.”

In May, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the project. At that meeting, and in a guest opinion column published online in The Dispatch, Oedekerk said if the project was not approved, he would no longer consider his land for future development.

San Juan Capistrano resident and movie producer Steve Oedekerk owns the land where Urban Village proposes to build a 136-room hotel and 33 townhomes. Courtesy of Steve Oedekerk
San Juan Capistrano resident and movie producer Steve Oedekerk owns the land where Urban Village proposes to build a 136-room hotel and 33 townhomes. Courtesy of Steve Oedekerk

For years, Oedekerk has allowed the city to use his land, located at 31878 Camino Capistrano, as free public parking, but due to financial security, as well as problems caused by a growing homeless population and drug use at nearby Historic Town Center Park, he may privatize the lot.

“Steve just lost faith in the process,” Host said. “He just doesn’t believe (the city) anymore.”

Host said the continuation was caused by what he described as a “clerical error” by the city. When the city approved its Historic Town Center Master Plan in 2012, Host said they did not update its land-use zoning, as well as its classification system, to be in accordance with the general plan. To do so requires more time for public notices and additional meetings for a general plan amendment.

Calls to Oedekerk and the city were not immediately returned.

Host said his attorney, a land-use expert, had told the city the project could still be approved without a revision, but he had not received a response. He added that the city had expressed concern they were never notified that the project’s residential component would be detached from the hotel. However, he said he had provided documentation, from as early as May 2013, detailing the project.

The city received the project in January 2013. Host, who has since moved his family to San Juan Capistrano, said Urban Village has spent over $1 million on the project, which he initially expected to be approved or denied in December.

Last month, Urban Village announced they had received a commitment from Hilton Worldwide to operate a full-service, four-star hotel and they had signed a contract with a Hilton-recommended developer.

Host said he’s still hoping to pursue the project and come back to Oedekerk with an approved project. But, he said, in continuing the hearing, the city may be putting Urban Village in breach of contract with the hotel developer.

“Our hope is that the city reaches out to Steve to make this work,” Host said. “Otherwise, I don’t know how we’re going to move forward.”

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comments (4)

  • Mechelle Lawrence

    A few things people should realize. Taking more time is good for the public interest. There is no reason to feel sorry for developer who is in this process to make a lot of money. We should all realize that this project has not been publicly noticed on site, one of the reasons most of residents don’t understand what is happening. We were required to publicly note our project in front of the Mission from the beginning. Neither this project nor the Shops have any posting notices so it is going under radar of most busy residents.

    Also, this new determination of a GPA for the residential component being separated, should cause us to take stock of the so far prepared environmental studies (how did this part of project get a mitigated neg dec and the Shops has to do EIR?) when there are potentially irreversible and significant impacts to cultural, historical, visual and aesthetic resources? As a solution to going forward to ensure there is no negative visual impacts, the City could require a visual simulation or 3d model. We had to do it for the Mission. This would help to allay fears about the impacts of this project and help every one really understand what is being proposed. I don’t think we have enough info about the visual impact to categorically say it is a good fit for this precious heart of downtown and our community.
    Additionally, so what if the parking lot is now closed? We were going to lose it anyway. It’s a good time to look at the planning and zoning intended for the area. The good news is that we all learned that a hotel is financial feasible in our downtown, that there could be real deal possible, and guess what, we have the ready made zoning and same sized site available right across the street at the Mission. A use we all vetted, and wanted after two years of planning and a cost to the public of $500,000 plus. That already entitled site will allow a fast track business friendly processing time for any developer compared to the lengthier process of a GPA and RZ.

    If nothing, let’s explore City Hall in downtown again, why not? Day uses and free parking at night!

  • Real Estate Development Class 101 — Due Diligence: One of the first tasks for a developer to conduct prior to laying out a sizable chunk of money for plans is read the general plan and zoning applicable to the property being considered for development.

    City staff come and go. That’s why you investigate for yourself (if you are a builder or developer) the actual documents controlling the property such as the City’s general plan, master plan, zoning and title report for the property.

    Plus, this project must have a friend or two at City Hall. Why else would 136-hotel rooms and 33 townhomes only be required to prepare and process a mitigated negative declaration when a mere 1700 sq. ft. shop at the Mission was required to prepare and process a full blown environmental impact report?

  • Dear Mechelle,

    We first submitted our project to the City for review in February of 2013 (19 months ago). We made a large financial investment because we were told by staff the project would take 6-9 months as had the Marriott Residence Inn. We have never had a project without a GPA and Rezone take over 12 months, in any city (18 projects completed). The public interest is served when the process works on a fair and level playing field. The public interest is not served when outside players, such as yourself, unfairly manipulate the system for your own agenda.

    ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES. An initial study was commissioned by the City to determine if our project would require a negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration or EIR. The initial analysis included many intense studies like the Traffic Impact Analysis Report that analyzed over 20 intersections. The initial analysis determined that the project fell within conformance with the assumptions of the EIR completed for the Historic Town Center Master Plan. I would further recommend you research SB 743 as it relates to CEQA modifications. http://www.mtc.ca.gov/legislation/SB_743_MTC_Fact_Sheet.pdf

    3D MODEL. We have produced ten 3d models at a cost of over $45k. All models are available through the City website along with the project website.
    PARKING. Steve Oedekerk has a serious problem with homeless, drugs, vandalism and even prostitution on the property as I have seen firsthand. The property is ill designed for safety concerns, creating many dark areas that attract criminal types. This is the reason why Mr. Oedekerk shut down the parking lot. Contrary to your point, the City would only lose the parking if the property remains in its current condition because of safety concerns. If our project is approved it would provide 146 parking stalls on-site for the hotel and commercial with an additional 40 parking stalls for valet. This is 20% more parking than was determined necessary to meet peak parking demand (according to the parking study commissioned by the City). This means that the hotel will have an excess of parking available for the public, especially during non-peak hours.

    PLANNING FOR THE AREA. I agree with you, Mechelle, it is a good time to look at the planning
    and zoning for the area. According to the Historic Town Center Master Plan both hotel and residential are allowed in the Historic Town Center zone. Further, this property was identified to have both Courtyard Residential and Live-Work Residential. The density for the residential is allowed at 33 units to the acre in the Plan while our project proposes 18.86 units to the acre (42.8% less than the allowed density). The density for the commercial in the Plan ranges between the minimum of 0.95 floor area ratio and a maximum of 1.5 floor area ratio. The commercial portion of our proposed project (ie. Hotel, retail, restaurant) is 1.11 floor area ratio. This is 26% below the allowable density.

    Now let’s look at our requested Administrative Modifications and Master Plan Amendment. Our requested Administrative Modifications are as follows:

    1. Setback Averaging.
    The minimum rear yard setback is 10 feet. We are asking for the setbacks to be averaged. Meaning that in some places the setback may be 15 and in others only six feet (when appropriate). Our current average setback is 11.35’ (13.5% more setback than required). The purpose of this administrative modification is to create breaks in building massing and increase aesthetic appeal. The project can work without this modification, but the homes would be much boxier with less functionality.

    2. Mezzanine.
    According to the Historic Town Center Master Plan a residential unit can only have two stories. There is no definition for story in the Plan. According to the Form Based Code if there is no definition then the definition from the Municipal Code stands. The municipal code infers that if the level is less than 50% of the building area and within 12 feet from the floor it is not counted as a story, rather it is a mezzanine. Our mezzanine level is 18 feet from the floor instead of 12 feet and it is only 34% of the building area instead of 50% of the building area. We are under the maximum 35 feet allowed under the Plan. The reason for the request is that it allowed us to create more view sheds, by putting the smallest level (mezzanine) at the top instead of the middle. The project could be designed with the mezzanine within 12 feet of the floor, but then it would negatively impact the views of the hills.

    3. Setback from Egan House.
    The required setback from the Egan House is the height of the building. The highest point of the building facing the Egan house, excluding architectural elements is 42 feet. This would render a hotel impossible on the site. Instead we requested that the setback be averaged. The minimum setback is 25 feet and the average setback is 49 feet. Without this exception the hotel would have to be removed for an alternative use. To further compensate we setback the hotel an additional six feet, removed the bell tower, lowered the first story and created a wraparound patio. You will be able to see the Egan House from any vantage point on Camino Capistrano that you can currently see it from.

    4. Height of Building.
    The height of the Egan house, according to a survey completed by a certified surveyor is 35.23 feet. The Historic Town Center Master Plan says that no building should be higher than the Egan House. We requested a modification of 7 feet for the hotel portion. Further we have lowered the height of the hotel on Camino Capistrano to 29 feet (roof deck). This is six feet lower than the Egan house. We have prepared a 3D model with certified heights. It shows that you cannot see the hotel behind the Egan house when standing on the sidewalk at El Adobe.

    In essence the only requests that we have made allow for the hotel and improve the design of the project. Please research these points before you respond.

    Lastly, I realize that your intent is to kill our project in hopes of reviving Plaza Banderas. Gretchen spent hundreds of thousands of dollars designing the Plaza Banderas site to bring a much needed hotel into the Downtown. The fact is after 5 years there was not a hotel developer that was able to make the project work. Further, the Hilton hotel developer said at City council the Plaza Banderas site is inferior, for a hotel, and at best could be a Hilton Garden Inn. I do not understand the logic of why you would prefer a Hilton Garden Inn versus a full-service Hilton.

    It could be said that open collaboration is the best method for achieving the best results. It would be my hope that you would cease negative maneuvering and work with us in a collaborative manner. In this way we could both serve the public’s best interest.

  • Dear James,

    Thanks for your comments. Here are responses to your points.

    Your first point:

    Real Estate Development Class 101 — Due Diligence: One of the first tasks for a developer to conduct prior to laying out a sizable chunk of money for plans is read the general plan and zoning applicable to the property being considered for development.

    Response:

    We completed an in depth land use review and determined that the Planning and Zoning was consistent. A post analysis by two additional land use attorneys concurred with. Since you seem to have some background I would recommend you review for yourself.

    1. General Plan – Read the top of page 6.
    2. Resolution #12-04-03-03 – Read Pages 1-5
    3. Historic Town Center Master Plan – Read Section 1.1 (Authority and Purpose)

    Your second point:

    Plus, this project must have a friend or two at City Hall. Why else would 136-hotel rooms and 33 townhomes only be required to prepare and process a mitigated negative declaration when a mere 1700 sq. ft. shop at the Mission was required to prepare and process a full blown environmental impact report?

    Response:

    An EIR was approved and certified for the Historic Town Center Master Plan. One of the reasons why Public Plans are created is to complete the environmental process so that any project within conformance is exempt from an additional EIR. Further I would recommend you review SB 743 for updates to CEQA.

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