By Allison Jarrell
If a developer’s plans go accordingly, San Juan Capistrano could be getting a downtown hotel across from the mission—a site that was previously approved for the Plaza Banderas project. Rivendell Land Company, owned by Bill Griffith, has purchased the plot of land on the corner of El Camino Real and Ortega Highway and is closing escrow.
Dan Friess, who is representing Rivendell as a consultant, said the purchase of the property includes an existing full development entitlement from 2011—the Plaza Banderas project, which includes approvals for a 124-room hotel and two commercial buildings.
At the San Juan Capistrano City Council’s March 17 meeting, construction of a waterline providing sufficient fire flow for the hotel project was approved unanimously. Rivendell Land Company will cover the cost of the approved pipeline construction, which was bid at $640,000. During public comment on the item, Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Commissioner Steve Behmerwohld noted that such construction was found to be too costly for the site’s previous developers. City staff said constructing a pipeline across the freeway is much cheaper than the previous pursuit of a line down El Horno—which was estimated to cost $1.8 million.
Friess said Rivendell has not yet selected an operator for a hotel, and the company is still working on resolving engineering issues. Following escrow, Friess told the council that plans will begin moving ahead for the approved project, which still has to go through a construction documentation phase that will likely take several months.
“The bottom line is, we’re moving forward,” Friess said in a later interview. “We’re very interested in reviving this project for the community.”