LAGUNA NIGUEL : Developers, City to Discuss Site Uses

Developers of a hotly debated property at La Paz and Aliso Creek roads, who proposed building a Smith’s Food & Drug Center, are going back to the drawing board.

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to a request from officials of the Birtcher Niguel development company, which had asked to begin working with the city to determine other uses for the nearly 13-acre site it owns.

Birtcher Niguel asked for the city’s assistance at the same time a Smith’s representative was notifying city officials that the supermarket company was no longer interested in placing a 77,754-square-foot store there.

Residents, council members and city staff had objected to the Smith’s proposal, which they said did not fit with the Laguna Niguel General Plan’s vision for mixed use on the now-vacant property.


Earlier this year, the council approved a Birtcher Niguel plan for an “urban village” that would have filled the site with offices, movie theaters, a fitness center, restaurants and stores. But the project fell through when the theater chain pulled out, and Birtcher Niguel followed up with the proposal for the 24-hour Smith’s store on 7.3 acres.

Despite various attempts to design a mixed-use project that included the supermarket, the developers were unable to win over residents and Planning Commission and City Council members, who said the community already is saturated with grocery stores and needs other types of commercial development.

Throughout the negotiations with the city, Smith’s had a standing appeal with the City Council of the Planning Commission’s June rejection of the plan.

But H. David Nielson, Smith’s real estate representative, informed the council in an Aug. 27 letter that his company is not interested in participating in the process of devising a master plan for the property.


“This process,” Nielson said in the letter, “would not be productive under the context of our appeal and we have therefore elected to withdraw,” Nielson said in the letter.