Plans to open an In-N-Out Burger at the gateway to San Clemente, with the restaurant’s signature red accents and signs, were waived on ahead by the City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The majority of the council rejected concerns from planning commissioners who pushed to change the lighting and signage proposed saying the typical look of the signature Southern California burger joint doesn’t fit the area’s character, especially at the city’s main entrance.
Beyond those considerations, the commission favored the project and approved the overall concept for the new location at Avenida Pico and Via Pico Plaza, which would be the chain’s first in the city.
Katie Crockett, an associate planner for the city, told City Council members a dimmer switch will adjust the LED lighting – which creates a red glow – and there should be no light disturbance from it in the area. She also told the council there had been no objections received from the public regarding the lighting.
Still, Mayor Kathy Ward said she worried allowing the lighting might create an unwanted precedent.
“The red lighting acts as a painted line,” she said. “We have several buildings that have tried to add a red stripe and have had to repaint their buildings. I believe if we award this, we’ll have multiple owners come in and ask for a red stripe across their building. Pico is just not a gateway. It’s the main gateway.”
The new 3,280-square-foot restaurant proposes a Spanish-colonial revival style suitable to San Clemente’s “Village-by-the-Sea” atmosphere. There would be outdoor dining and a drive-thru lane that could handle 30 cars at a time.
Two bank buildings in the shopping center are set to be demolished to make room for it across from the post office.
City Councilman Steve Knoblock defended the plans for signs, calling them “essential.”
And, “In-N-Out applied 14 years ago,” he added.
Councilman Gene James commended the company for its track record of success, calling its founding “an amazing story.”
He asked, though, what plans In-N-Out management had for dealing with congregating homeless people for which, he said, fast-food restaurants have often been “magnets.”
Jim Lockington, who spoke via Zoom and identified himself as the company’s new store development manager, said the restaurant chain takes great care to provide safety, lighting and security.
“We’ll do what’s appropriate even if it needs night security,” he said.
The next steps include completing construction drawings and pulling permits.
“We hope to open the restaurant by the end of the year,” Lockington said. “We’re excited to bring our unique Southern California brand to your unique Southern California beach city.”