After three decades of visitors seeing a vacant lot when exiting near Avenida Valencia onto El Camino Real, that property is closer to boasting a new development per a Planning Commission vote last week.
The commission on Jan. 18 unanimously voted to approve the Calvada mixed-use project at 1430 S. El Camino Real, which includes 10 apartments and four commercial suites with offices on the second floor, as well as a combined 49 parking stalls and more than 20,000 square feet.
Additionally, the inclusion of one unit reserved for low-income rent (10%) qualifies the structure for California’s Density Bonus Law, allowing the project’s architectural firm to receive one concession in installing guardrails on the building’s third story.
Planning Chair Scott McKhann said he thought the building as designed by Hannibal Petrossi, owner of the Petrossi & Associates architectural firm, was “absolutely extraordinary.”
“I know that staff and the Design Review Subcommittee worked on it a bunch, but the architect and the owner were willing to make the changes,” he said, adding: “I think the finished, designed product is absolutely fantastic. It’s a 10-plus.”
Petrossi and his team met with the DRSC in June and November of 2022 during the design process.
Commissioner Brent Davis commended DRSC’s help in previous meetings to get the project in front of the full body of the Planning Commission.
“It’s a nasty eyesore, and I’m thrilled that we’re this far along in the process to getting a project like this approved,” Davis said.
Of the affordable housing component, Economic Development Director Jonathan Lightfoot said the project does not meet the city’s own Inclusionary Housing standard of reserving at least 4% for very-low-income renters. Lightfoot said the developers must pay an in-lieu fee of $95,267.
McKhann questioned whether the potential name for the development, “Moana Landing,” would fit with the required Spanish Colonial Revival architecture once it’s completed and whether to change the name. City staff said the city didn’t have the authority to require a name change, leading McKhann to simply encourage the developers to reconsider.
Throughout the discussion, commissioners also discussed giving the design team flexibility in urban open space uses on the first floor of the parking garage and ensuring that mechanical units on the roof would be hidden from the public.
Petrossi said his team was thrilled to be on the corner of El Camino Real and Avenida Valencia, right in front of people visiting San Clemente.
He also expressed that they are speaking with numerous restaurants to find a tenant. They are also looking forward to eventually breaking ground if the project gets all of its approvals.
The main obstacle Petrossi’s team is concerned with is seeking approval from the California Coastal Commission.
“Other than that, the final design is really a combination of all the comments and the recommendations from staff,” he said. “We’re thankful for that.”
Former Mayor Tim Brown, assisting Petrossi on the project, told the commission that the team was not married to the “Moana Landing” name, and they were open to various possibilities.
“The relationship (between staff and the applicant) has been very collaborative to date, and, candidly, there’s been a lot of really great outcomes just (from) conversations, even here tonight,” Brown said. “So, I think we can continue that same repartee going forward.”
Commissioner Gary McCaughan later opined that he was fine with letting the applicant choose the development name.
Chair Pro Tem Steven Camp, who sits on the Design Review Subcommittee, commended Petrossi’s team, as they’d met numerous times in the months leading up to last week’s meeting for their continuous effort in improving the design.
He did, however, say that cursive typeface displaying the development’s name on the front of the building’s northern and southern ends was “not appropriate” and needed to be improved. Commissioner Cameron Cosgrove pointed out that he remembered suggesting the design team place the letters on the south side in an arch to outline a fountain included there.
Amid debate over numerous signs on the building, McKhann asked staff whether the discretionary sign program needed to be approved at the same time as the other permits.
Deputy Community Development Department Director Adam Atamian said staff prefers to have things approved all at once to speed up the process for applicants, but that isn’t required.
“It could be continued to a date certain,” Atamian said. “If the Planning Commission would like it to go back to the DRSC or some other action and come back to the Planning Commission for a subsequent approval, that would be fine.”
He added that Petrossi could seek a Coastal Development Permit from the Coastal Commission for just the building alone and then obtain a smaller approval for the signs.
The commission went on to approve a Discretionary Sign Permit for the project after giving Petrossi guidance on changes it would prefer to see.
McCaughan mentioned that it would be difficult for people driving south on El Camino Real to see the building number because it was tucked away on the southern end. To that point, Camp added that the Orange County Fire Authority would likely have more input on the number’s visibility than the commission.
Commissioner Karen Prescott-Loeffler said that apart from not being in love with the dome feature and wanting to see more creative tile elements, she was OK with the project.
Before the commission gave its approval, Commissioner Barton Crandell also praised Petrossi and his team for their work on the project.
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