By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Amid community criticism of the potential location for a new In-N-Out Burger restaurant, the San Juan Capistrano City Council approved a discretionary use permit (DUP) review process for the proposed restaurant site during a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

In-N-Out wants to demolish the current Marie Callender’s building on Del Obispo Street and build a new restaurant in its place, with a drive-thru lane. The existing building does not currently have a drive-thru lane; hence, the study coming before the council for consideration.

Some residents have voiced their opposition to In-N-Out setting up shop on Del Obispo, citing an expected increase in traffic, environmental concerns and the perception that the restaurant could detract from San Juan’s image. The DUP review would look at potential traffic impacts, entrance and exit points and other potential effects from the new restaurant. The study does not bind the council to any future approval.

In-N-Out Burger wants to set up a new franchise location at the Marie Callender’s building on Del Obispo Street, which some residents oppose. Photo: Collin Breaux.

Tom Hribar, a past councilmember, said the town doesn’t need the In-N-Out.

“You don’t need to go through design review, board, planning commission, traffic studies, environmental impact reports,” Hribar said. “Get it done tonight. It doesn’t work.”

The council voted, 3-2, to approve the study. Mayor Troy Bourne and Councilmembers Sergio Farias and Derek Reeve voted yes. Mayor Pro Tem John Taylor and Councilmember Brian Maryott voted no.

Maryott said he didn’t know why the city would go out of its way to invite another “almost pure drive-thru, regardless of their popularity.”

“I believe now we have a duty to do whatever we can to encourage the kind of development that is most beneficial to the charm of the community, obviously within our legal means,” Maryott said. “We can’t prevent anybody from using their property as they’re allowed to use.”

Bourne said the city has a duty to conduct a study to examine impacts and feasibility, also asking for community input during the review.

“Better is probably, to some degree, in the eye of the beholder,” Bourne said in response to comments that the city deserves better. “All of our kids want to eat at In-N-Out Burger, and it does feel a little bit funny to me to say, ‘I’m glad you guys like In-N-Out Burger so much. Drive to the neighboring city to enjoy it; we don’t want your traffic in our town.’ ”

City officials said they are generally not able to choose which commercial tenants come into town, and the matter is instead up to property landlords.

In-N-Out will next submit entitlement applications and studies, and then city staff will conduct an independent analysis of the project that would include an environmental review. Those steps will be reviewed by the design review committee and planning commission, and the city council will make a final decision on the DUP.

In other news, the council approved reinstituting paid public parking in the Franciscan Plaza parking structure at $2 an hour for spaces 109-355, with no overnight parking from 2-5 a.m. The owner of the parking structure and some downtown businesses requested that paid parking—which was instituted on a trial basis in summer 2019—be reinstituted due to increased business activity and resulting traffic congestion.

The council also approved changing how they select planning commissioners. The council will return to a previous method in which the mayor appoints a subcommittee comprised of councilmembers, who will interview planning commission candidates and then bring recommendations back to the council.

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comments (2)

  • It is a heartbreak to tear down Marie Callenders. I think the community would be better served by an Applebees or a Chilliesin that spot.

  • As a former City Council member, I can remember when the restaurant that used to be located on the Taco Bell site was to be sold. The Council members spent months soliciting sit-down restaurants to no avail. The same will be true for MC.
    I am in favor of InNOut because it will not affect the AM commute, and will take advantage of commuters coming home. I suspect that very few additional vehicles will be added to the afternoon commute.
    New InNOut business plans will have excess queuing on site, and a new right turn lane only into the site.
    Its a great company with an excellent product, employ our youth, and provide needed tax base.
    Del Obispo is an arterial highway with traffic going to Dana Point and Laguna Niguel. We have no control over that. In my perfect world, I would toll outside residents that use Del Obispo for their impact on our residents). The best we can do is to have their sales tax etc as a toll.

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