Garden proposal gets Commission OK

Garden proposal gets Commission OK
The Encinitas Planning Commission unanimously approves plans for a nearly 10,000-square-foot events pavilion at the San Diego Botanic Garden, despite neighbors’ concerns over potential noise issues. Rendering courtesy San Diego Botanic Garden

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the San Diego Botanic Garden’s proposal to build a near-10,000-square-foot education and events pavilion, but with some provisos to address neighborhood concerns about noise and traffic.

The commission voted 4-0 at its Feb. 18 meeting in favor of the Garden’s Dickinson Family Education Conservatory, a 9,300-square-foot state-of-the-art educational and community center proposed to be constructed adjacent to the Hamilton Children’s Garden on the park’s north side. Commissioner Ruben Flores was absent.

As a condition of the approval, however, garden officials must provide the city with an annual traffic and parking management plan for major events at the pavilion. Neighbors voiced concern that traffic along Quail Gardens Drive becomes gridlocked during the garden’s events, and the pavilion would only exacerbate it. The commissioners agreed.

“I like the project,” Commission Chairman Glenn O’Grady said.  “I am just trying to fine-tune it from a traffic aspect.”

The commission also admonished the garden officials to monitor noise and sound levels and adhere to the conditions of the approval, including the garden’s own “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to noise violations.

Several neighbors spoke at the meeting and expressed their concerns about the noise that the events at the pavilion and companion outdoor patio would generate. They said they already have issues with noise from weddings and special events that already occur at the park.

They cited a report done by a local acoustical engineer, who monitored 45 events between March and December of 2015. The report showed that nearly one-third of the events included noise that went over the city code’s decibel limit for most of, or all of the event, or were extremely loud for an hour.

“I know they want to be good neighbors. We just want to save our property values, our road safety and our sanity,” said Tom McIver, who said he had little confidence the garden would self-enforce its noise rules without the city’s intervention.

Garden officials and supporters said they were trying their best to balance the operations of the garden and the concerns of their neighbors, but urged the commission to approve the project.

“It’s fair to say any time you intensify the use of the garden you are going to see more intense traffic and you are likely going to hear more noise,” said Jim Farley, the CEO of the Leichtag Foundation, which shares a common border with the garden. “The impacts are less important than trying to be a good neighbor, and trying to do everything to minimize the impacts on the neighborhood, and that is clearly the intention of everyone at the garden.”

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