The Southern California-based chain will still have to seek approval from the to actually open in San Juan Capistrano. The City Council had the opportunity Tuesday to stop In-N-Out from submitting that application, but each of the members except Laura Freese decided a drive-thru is an appropriate use for the restaurant zoning on the property.
A few, including Derek Reeve, said they did not want to tell the Sizzler property owner what type of restaurant he should put in the spot. All of them except Mayor Sam Allevato—who thinks the traffic will bring more activity to downtown—said they worry about the In-N-Out causing gridlock on the thoroughfare.
"I'm not excited about another drive-thru on Del Obsipo, [but] I feel the duty to protect the right of the property owner," Councilman Derek Reeve said. "I'm approving this at this stage, but I’m very concerned about traffic. Is this going to back up on Del Obispo, is it going to back up on Forster?"
Project manager Keith Gilbert said the fact that so many cars travel along Del Obispo is one of the reasons the Sizzler location was chosen. It's the only spot in San Juan that In-N-Out is eying, he said.
When , Freese said, she wants all five of the drive-thru restaurants at Ortega Highway and Del Obispo to relocate south to Camino Capistrano, near the auto dealerships.
"I’d love to have an In-N-Out in this town, but not at this location. The traffic [would] be hair-raising—I just can’t even imagine it," Freese said. Also, "I’m worried that our entire downtown is going to smell like hamburgers."
Caltrans already plans to acquire the and to make way for the. While this could potentially alleviate some of the existing traffic in that area, a number of residents voiced opposition to the Sizzler location.
"The other day it took me 15 minutes to get from on the freeway at Ortega Highway. There were no accidents and no construction, just everyday normal traffic," Norma Karg said in an e-mail to Councilman Larry Kramer. "No more traffic! No more smog from idle car emissions at the drive-thrus. In-N-Out Burger has the longest drive-thru of them all. Fast-food restaurants do nothing to support the rich history and culture of this city."
Fitting into San Juan's history and culture, at least aesthetically, was another concern shared by council members, who said that as proposed, the In-N-Out does not blend with the rest of the town's Spanish-style architecture. They also made it clear that they want Gilbert to come up with some good reasons the burger joint will fit in with San Juan's .
Interested in learning about what else happened at the City Council meeting on March 15? Check out these stories: