After 15 public meetings, the Planning Commission on Tuesday night weighed in against a project that would add houses, retail and stables for 775 horses east of I-5 in San Juan Capistrano.
The commission voted 4-2 against city staff's recommendation of Distrito La Novia/San Juan Meadows.
The project will go before the City Council in June.
Commissioners Robert Williams, Bruce Tatarian and Gene Ratcliffe and Chairman Sheldon Cohen voted against the project, though several praised aspects of it. Commissioners James Mocalis and Ginny Kerr voted in favor.
More than 120 people taxed the City Hall council chamber's 99-person capacity for Tuesday night's meeting. Some displayed signs with slashes through the name of the project, and many spoke against it. Others were there to support the project's proposed horse stables. Two spoke in favor of the overall plan.
The Meadows plan includes 94 houses and 90 acres of open space along La Novia Avenue east of I-5. Distrito La Novia across the street would add 90 condominiums and 50 apartments, with 68,200 net square feet of shops and restaurants and 27,500 net square feet of office space.
There also would be room for 775 horses.
Project spokesman Rob Cerruti of Advanced Real Estate answered criticism from past meetings.
He said the project was put on hold in 2007 to reduce its density and increase open space to about 60 percent of the 153.8-acre project.
He said a five-story parking structure with a rooftop garden would be barely visible from nearby streets and showed renderings to demonstrate that.
Resident Rob Clyde said he anticipates coin laundries and liquor stores instead.
"You're not going to have the retail no matter what your wish list might say," he told the commission.
But Kerr agreed that the "high-end" retail would attract high-end shops.
Cerruti said traffic would be mitigated by improvements the developer would build for the La Novia Avenue onramp.
And he said horse manure would be carefully managed.
Residents expressed a variety of concerns. Richard Gardner of Capistrano Beach said the city could negotiate for water rights to the project. San Juan resident Yvonne Tchaikovsky said the 8,000 extra daily trips the site would add would bog down traffic. Resident Carolyn Schneider read a list of vacant retail and commercial spaces in town, saying this project would add to the number.
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