A year ago, the owners of the commercial buildings next to the railroad tracks on the north side of Del Obispo Street were looking at a 41 percent vacancy rate – and small business owners weren’t interested.
That’s because a number of them couldn’t locate to what’s called the Las Hadas buildings without spending another $5,000 on conditional use permit, said Dan Friess, who represented the owners in front of a hearing at City Council Tuesday.
Being on the edge of the , the two buildings with a total of 13,700 square feet are the only ones in all of San Juan Capistrano zoned for “low-density office,” a state report states. Accordingly, a number of business types, including the sale of meats, groceries, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, notions, jewelry, computers and small-scale eateries, weren’t allowed by right.
Things came to a head when an aesthetician wanted to rent a small space, but balked when she heard she would have to pay $5,000 for a permit, Friess said. She located in a building not too far away.
“The intent is to keep it small scale,” he said of the property owners’ request. They envision an ice cream shop, small deli or hair salon taking up shop in their buildings.
“We’ve kind of tied their hands, and this is a good way to un-tie their hands,” Councilwoman Laura Freese said before an unanimous vote of approval (with Councilman Sam Allevato absent).
She added that she likes the idea of expanding the pedestrian-friendly downtown atmosphere a little farther south to keep people walking and shopping in San Juan.
Added Councilman Derek Reeve: “This is pro-business, so consequently it’s pro-consumer.”
The council upheld a Cultural Heritage Commission request that the new retail uses take up no more than 4,500 square feet of the property, and no more than 1,500 square feet for any one tenant. Associate Planner Nick Taylor said the commission was concerned that a grocery store would want to come in and lease the entire downstairs.