By Shawn Raymundo
If all things go according to In-N-Out’s schedule, San Clemente residents could be sinking their teeth into Animal Style Double-Doubles at the restaurant’s newest location on Avenida Pico by the end of the year.
The city council on Tuesday, Jan. 19, waived signage and lighting conditions that the planning commission had imposed on the West Coast burger chain’s design plans, voting 4-1, with Mayor Kathy Ward dissenting, to approve In-N-Out’s appeal to those restrictions.
“If all goes well, we would hope to pull our permits and start construction soon, and the good Lord willing, to open the restaurant and begin to serve your community before the end of the year,” Jim Lockington, In-N-Out’s manager of new store development, told the council. “In-N-Out is thrilled to be bringing our iconic Southern California brand to your iconic Southern California beach community.”
Noting the company’s years-long effort to find a location in San Clemente, Councilmember Laura Ferguson gushed over the project, stating that she thought “it’s beautifully done” and fits the town’s style.
“I’m very excited to see it come to town,” she said. “I know all these years, In-N-Out’s been looking at San Clemente, trying to find the right site, and this really looks wonderful, like it will work.”
Planning commissioners this past September unanimously approved the restaurant’s project plans, which proposes to construct the In-N-Out in a city gateway area, on the site of the former California Bank & Trust building located at Pico Plaza.
Over concerns that the restaurant’s signature red LED lighting would be “incompatible” with the city’s Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, the planning commission had approved the plans with the condition that In-N-Out remove the signature cove lighting from the building plans.
In-N-Out’s planned 7-foot-tall monument sign was also an issue as commissioners felt it was “unnecessary and contributes to sign pollution due to its proximity to the existing non-conforming Pico Plaza pylon sign,” the city has explained.
Citing its own renderings of the project as part of its appeal to the conditions, In-N-Out noted that those drawings “clearly show that the proposed monument sign is attractive, appropriate in size and scale, entirely compatible with the balance of the proposed improvements, and does not remotely cause ‘sign pollution.’”
Included in the company’s appeal was also a letter of support from Henry Lenny, the architect and author of the city’s guidelines on Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. He argued that the cove lighting “does not compromise the integrity of the design of the building, its massing, detailing and the compliance of San Clemente’s Architectural Guidelines.”
“I continue to believe that this project, as designed, will be an enhancement to the overall fabric of the Architectural design goals of the City of San Clemente,” Lenny concluded in his Jan. 3 letter.
The council was initially slated to consider In-N-Out’s appeal this past November, but the company had requested a deferral to this month so it could have “time to bolster our arguments,” and have Lenny submit his letter expressing support.
Touching on Lenny’s thoughts on the matter, Councilmember Steve Knoblock said he doesn’t believe the signage and lighting in In-N-Out’s plans are problematic.
Ward explained that it’s been her policy to follow recommendations from planning commissioners, noting that they’re thorough in their evaluations. Furthermore, she said, agreeing with the commission’s reasoning, “Pico is not just a gateway, it’s our main gateway to the city.”
“The monument sign, I understand why they want it, but the building is right on, it’s right adjacent to the sidewalk, it’s right on the street, and there is multiple signage on the building,” she said.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the Pico Plaza sign is there but I think there could be a possibility to get that redone,” she continued. “I would be interested in how the city can make that happen and help everyone do that and maybe get In-N-Out on that sign.”
After the council voted, Ward said that while she’s rooting for the company’s success, she wanted to support the city’s General Plan.
According to Lockington, the company, prior to the end of last year, completed its construction drawings and submitted the plans to the city for a permit plan check.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.