On August 23, 2016 an OC Superior Court judge invalidated approval of the proposed "Urban Village" hotel and residential downtown development. The project was approved by the previous council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor, despite warnings from the City Attorney and City Manager that the project was not in compliance with the City’s General Plan. The order mandated that the City vacate the project approval.
The action by the previous council majority spawned several lawsuits, including one filed by a group of residents against the then-Council majority’s approval. In "Save Our Historic Town Center v. City of San Juan Capistrano", residents claimed that the project was not in compliance with the General Plan or the Historic Town Center Master Plan.
The project approval was also the subject of a referendum, approved by a majority of SJC voters and certified by the Registrar of Voters, to overturn the vote of the previous council majority. Although the referendum was successful, the developer filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate it and the subsequent vote of the current council majority which overturned it. It is unknown at this time how or if the court ruling will render as moot the developer’s lawsuit to invalidate the referendum.
The ruling stated that the vote to approve the downtown development was invalid as the proposed development violated the City’s General Plan which does not allow residential housing downtown, and that the Floor Area Ratio (size) was nearly three times greater than what is allowed.
The decision caps nearly 2 years of turmoil and expensive litigation.
The court ruling vindicates Mayor Pam Patterson and Mayor Pro Tem Kerry Ferguson who as newly elected councilmembers, voted with incumbent Councilman Derek Reeve and now-retired Councilman Roy Byrnes to overturn the previous council’s approval. The council members were harshly criticized by supporters of the development for approving the referendum and overturning the project approval. Referendum supporters on the other hand, called the 3 AM vote by the previous council "reckless and illegal" and criticized them for ignoring residents in the community. The CCS will keep you posted with any additional details as they become available.