The latest step in the process of establishing a new development at the northwest corner of Avenida Pico and El Camino Real came during the most recent San Clemente Design Review Subcommittee meeting as members discussed The Gallery boutique hotel.
Since April 2015, the property at 1801 N. El Camino Real has dotted the agendas of numerous committee meetings, and Dec. 14, 2022 was no different. Design Review, which comprises some members of the city’s Planning Commission, took another look at the proposed 49-room, three-story hotel that includes a restaurant and café, as well as a 106-stall parking garage.
Though the committee reviewed the proposed development extensively, it maintained its favor of the overall Spanish Colonial Revival look and the project itself.
For Commissioner Steven Camp, he said he felt the building needed more details all around that would provide a “compelling” narrative and a better appearance regarding the historic Spanish Colonial Revival style.
“It’s really this view corridor thing,” Camp said. “You need to focus on your story for those areas. I really like the project. I think it’s well done, especially from the intersection.”
Details that city staff included as important to the project’s discussion included that the site was identified as a “gateway” to the city—a transitional place that announces a visitor’s presence inside a certain area.
Additionally, the project would be required to preserve view corridors of the ocean in relation to General Plan objectives. The city staff report’s Public View Corridor Impact Analysis determined that the development’s current design would play a factor in sight lines.
“Further modifications are likely necessary to lessen the impacts to the view corridor,” the report read.
The Gallery hotel was also identified as lying within the North Beach/North El Camino Real Focus Area, defined as a unique entertainment hub and recreation space in which the structure would immediately command travelers’ attention.
One of Commissioner Barton Crandell’s first comments was that there needed to be a traffic analysis for the project, with it being at an intersection without a legal U-turn option.
He also suggested reducing the height of certain elements, such as a stairwell, to best protect the view of the horizon line.
Commissioner Cameron Cosgrove was adamant in emphasizing the importance of the development contributing to welcoming people into San Clemente by adding an extra design piece. The Gallery was entirely separate from the city’s culture on its own, he said, but it could do well to link itself as people drive down El Camino Real.
“I think you need to invest more to make this part of that destination (aspect), where you’re basically saying, ‘We are San Clemente,’ ” Cosgrove said. “Whether it’s a bridge, whether it’s just a landmark piece, something that really steps up the game and says, ‘We are here in this town to stay and we are identifying with the town.’ ”
The committee agreed that any art piece or other element would be viewed favorably in the eyes of the California Coastal Commission’s review of the project.
Deputy Community Development Director Adam Atamian said staff anticipated that the project would come back to DRSC. Comments from the committee on public view impacts would be considered, including a request to have the project’s design team present a simulated view of the ocean as seen from motorists driving down the hill of Avenida Pico.
“Our concern at this stage moving forward was public views, and to help the applicant identify—to the extent that you guys have an insight into the Planning Commission, generally—what you want to see as far as information that helps illustrate what we’re talking about with public view impacts,” Atamian said.
Crandell added that it was likely the City Council would call up the project for review, given the importance a hotel in the North Beach Historic District could have.
“This makes North Beach,” he said. “(It’s a) good thing for the city rather than a vacant lot there.”
Camp echoed the sentiments, saying they were excited about the project.