Merry Christmas, Rancho Santa Margarita—it looks as if Santa will be able to drive through your hometown In-N-Out on his big night.
The city's Planning Commission on Wednesday approved unanimously an application by the Southern California burger chain for a conditional use permit that will allow it to operate a restaurant on the northwest corner of Santa Margarita Parkway and State Route 241.
According to In-N-Out representative Kim Kennedy, the iconic franchise will need about six weeks to get its plans in order to go through the submittal process. "Bottom line," he said of the timeline for its opening, "hopefully by the end of the year."
Ho, ho, ho, how about a double-double to go?
The project still has to get approval of the city council, but that seems likely.
The primary concerns of the three commissioners in attendance—chairman Peter Whittingham, Brad McGirr and Jim Eakin—centered on traffic and its impact on Santa Margarita Parkway, and median landscaping.
But for for the most part, the dialogue between the sides was sweet and simple. In-N-Out had put together a solid footprint of the property that exceeded city requirements, and both restaurant and city were complimentary of the other for working through the process and issues as they arose.
"To be honest, we do a lot of development," Kennedy said, "and we don't always have this kind of cooperation."
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The commissioners were clearly aware of the impact the restaurant will have on the city's psyche. McGirr said that in the 15 months he has been on the commission, no project has evoked more interest and questions of him than the In-N-Out question: When are we going to get one?
"We were excited to be able to approve this application and move it one step closer to reality," he said afterward.
Design of the site allows for 15 cars to be stacked in line—city code requires eight—but because of the layout about 27 cars can be queued up before RSM's main thoroughfare comes into play. Additionally, there will be 86 parking spaces, far exceeding the 51 required by the city.
Access will be provided through a new driveway at Santa Margarita Parkway and Interchange Plaza. It will also require construction of a new left turn pocket off Santa Margarita Parkway into the parcel.
The restaurant will be 3,750 square feet on a parcel that is about 1.58 acres (68,201 square feet) that is currently being used by to park its surplus vehicles.
The restaurant will have an 832 square foot outdoor dining area with 14 tables, as well as its signature drive-through. It will operate from 10:30-1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Additionally, the city and In-N-Out are in negotiations for the chain to acquire a strip of land between the existing site and State Route 241. Another detail that needs to be worked out is signaling onto the southbound 241 at the traffic lights.
Commissioners Jack Leonard and Kent Hayden were not in attendance.