To the disappointment of neighboring property owners, a new convenience store will open "as soon as possible" in the on Camino Capistrano.
After listening to hours of public testimony, the City Council on Tuesday night gave Mercado El Rey permission to move into 32252 Camino Capistrano, .
"I don't think we needed to go through all of this," co-business owner Ibrahim Tarek said of a series of public meetings held to address the parking issue. "It's a headache off our heads."
Zoned by city staffers as "retail," the store encountered roadblocks when an adjacent property owner appealed to the Planning Commission to change its classification to "grocery store," which requires more parking stalls than what's available at the now-empty thrift store.
"By your own city code, we are a convenience store … no matter how you slice it, that is what we are," said Ziad Faraj, mercado co-owner.
Complicating matters was a decision made by the Planning Commission in 1982, when it gave special permission to St. Vincent de Paul to build a partially-enclosed storage area at its rear. The addition was built atop a handful of parking spaces needed for a businesses zoned "retail" to meet the city-mandated customer-to-parking stall ratio.
Neighbors argued that the property owners should tear down the addition and come into compliance. City Councilman Derek Reeve agreed, casting the sole "no" vote in the 3-1 decision. (Councilwoman Laura Freese did not vote due to a conflict of interest.)
The mercado owners say they will actually decrease the amount of square footage accessible to shoppers, and have offered to create two new parking spaces where the thrift store's collection area used to be.
"I'm pretty confident that this business will probably make a pretty good go of it, but should they be punished because it's going to be successful? I don't think so," said Mayor Sam Allevato.
A Mercado El Rey is already open in Lake Forest. The store, founded in Lompoc, caters to Hispanic populations and carries a variety of ethnic foods.