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By Victor Carno

After reviewing construction plans for the proposed Plaza Banderas Hotel on Jan. 11, the San Juan Capistrano Design Review Committee (DRC) unanimously decided that the hotel plans are consistent with the 2011 version of the project that was previously approved by the Planning Commission.

However, that does not mean there will be shovels in the ground just yet. DRC members Tim Neely, Lynn Roe and Geoff Sumich voted to continue the discussion and have Plaza Banderas developers Dan Friess, Bill Griffith and Jake Griffith return to the commission with modified elevations for two of the structures, including the main hotel building.

With that decision, City Planner David Contreras clarified that “although the architectural footprint on the foundation’s plans can move into plan check, the city cannot issue a permit on the foundation plans until the architectural plans are submitted and approved.”

“Obviously if the buildings are shifting, the foundations are also shifting with that,” Contreras said.

In Oct. 2010, the San Juan Capistrano City Council conditionally approved the Plaza Banderas Hotel project. One of the conditions of approval was that the project’s final construction plans undergo review by the DRC for consistency.

On July 13, 2017, the DRC reviewed the final construction plans for Buildings A and B and provided feedback, and on Dec. 15, 2017, Mission Commercial Properties submitted a revised final construction plan for those two buildings, as well as the final construction plans for the third building, which would contain the hotel.

The DRC reviewed plans for all three of the buildings before concluding that the plans are consistent with the previously approved 2011 project.

Attorney Charles Krolikowski, representing a group of concerned residents known as Save Our Mission, addressed the DRC during public comment in opposition of the final construction plans.

“The resolution was for a mixed-use project. The project included a free-standing restaurant and commercial retail offices. They are trying to pull a fast one by you to have you change their project for them,” Krolikowski said.

Krolikowski’s statements were in reference to changes such as Griffith’s choice to switch the use of Building B from a restaurant to additional hotel suites. The restaurant plans were moved into the main hotel building. Staff reported that the interior changes were made “to meet the requirements for a 4-star hotel operator.”

“The applicant is seeking to either eliminate or substantially reduce the commercial/retail components of the project,” Krolikowski said. “In essence, the applicant wants to make the project look the same, but with different uses.

“If you approve this tonight without submitting it to the planning commission for review, it will create more lawsuits and CEQA lawsuits,” Krolikowski concluded.

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