ENCINITAS — Various rumors have pegged the private group Leucadia Club as a political think tank, a strip joint or even a religious cult. But those and other pieces of gossip aren’t true, the club’s organizers say.
Members want to open Leucadia Club at 828 N. Coast Highway 101, and they maintain it will be nothing more than a mellow hangout spot for career-minded professionals.
The club, which is invite only and requires a monthly fee, looks for members who can carry insightful conversation and have demanding, global-oriented careers, among other traits, according to materials they’ve produced.
“Encinitas hasn’t seen a private social club like this,” J. Alfred Dichoso, associate planner with the city, said. “So people have questions.”
Three months ago, organizers mailed the materials to nearby residents to try and clarify their intent with the club.
However, some neighbors still fear a frat housetype of atmosphere taking root near their homes. They’ve said they plan on opposing the project during a March 6 Planning Commission meeting.
For the club to move into the location, the commission will have to approve a minor-use permit.
“Neighbors are worried and the club representatives have shrugged us off,” said Barbara Kubarych, who owns property near the location.
And Kubarych believes some residents have been reluctant to speak out because their neighbors, friends and business associates might belong.
Minor-use permits are typically a staff-level decision. However, an influx of calls and emails to the city relating to the club kicked it up to the Planning Commission.
When organizers first introduced the club to neighbors last summer, documents stated it would have 40 members.
More recently, the group has said the ranks could eventually grow to as many as 110 members, though membership would most likely hover around 75, with a limited number of guests also allowed.
“They changed their story,” Kubarych said. “It’s concerning because the last thing we want is a party pad with so many people.”
But Charlie McDermott, who is the vice president of a pharmaceutical company and on the club’s board of directors, said partying just isn’t the club’s aim.
“Most of us are married,” McDermott said. We’re not out to tear it up and party — all these accusations are very far from the truth.”
McDermott said the club, a nonprofit, would simply give members a chance to kick back, enjoy good conversation and toss around creative ideas. Watching TV, playing pool and listening to guest speakers — not wild parties — are in the cards, he added.
The club’s inspiration comes from the Longfellow House, an intellectual commune near Harvard University where notable leaders, poets and authors once gathered.
“We want to continue the spirit in Leucadia,” McDermott said, adding that Australian surf clubs, where locals stash their boards and hangout, are another influence.
He noted Leucadia was chosen because many of the members live in the community.
The club is looking to lease a 1,900-square-foot space, surrounded by businesses like Pandora’s Pizza and Progression Surf. It’s likely to generate less traffic than a small restaurant, according to the club’s materials.
Tim Calver, who lives directly behind the proposed club, believes it will exacerbate existing neighborhood problems.
A narrow alley separates his home and the club. He said the alley already faces flooding and parking issues, and a swarm of club members’ cars could block emergency access.
Calver is also worried about noise wafting from the club.
“For a club of this magnitude to go in would be irresponsible and reckless on behalf of the city,” he said.
Dichoso said the club’s application and the alleyway are viewed as separate matters by city staff. But he noted it’s possible the Planning Commission, when reviewing the permit, could look at the club’s impact on the alley.
If the commission approves the permit, it will consider limitations on the club.
One proposed restriction would forbid the club from renting out its space for outside events. Dichoso noted a similar limitation was imposed on the Carlsbad Woman’s Club after it hosted large crowds.
Neighbors have also raised concerns about members having key-card access to the club during all hours.
While members have said they wouldn’t visit during off-hours, they could technically do so under the proposed permit.
Dichoso said the club’s hours would be 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
The occupancy limit would be 115 people, but only a fraction of members are expected on a given day, and at-large meetings aren’t planned.
If the city received enough valid complaints about noise or other types of issues, it could look at stricter limitations on the permit, Dichoso stated.
For now, its members wouldn’t be allowed to drink alcohol in the club, yet another neighborhood concern.
The club hasn’t applied for a beer and wine license, but it might do so down the line after earning the community’s trust, McDermott said.
“We had no idea we’d be put through this kind of scrutiny, put through this much paperwork — this many hurdles,” McDermott said.
“We want to put all these rumors behind us,” he added.