CARLSBAD — An eye sore in Carlsbad Village may get much needed surgery.
A large mixed-use project slated for Carlsbad Village is in the midst of going through the city’s process.
The Carlsbad Village Lofts would sit just west of Interstate 5 and rest where Denny’s and the former Chevron gas station, which is no longer in operation, are currently located.
Denny’s will be demolished and relocated to make room for 106 apartments in a four-story building with a commercial component on the south end of the project off Carlsbad Village Drive. The proposed building will run north to Grand Avenue.
Proposing the development is the San Diego-based Gerber Group headed by Evan Gerber.
“I found a vacant, underutilized site within an existing community next to public transportation, so that’s where I start,” Gerber said. “Mixed-used in the proper sense. Ground floor retail, to activate street life … so we can have a sustainable, active community.”
According to Carlsbad Associate Planner Shannon Werneke, no staff reports have been prepared, but will be released one week before the project goes in front of the planning commission in January.
As for density, she said the base maximum allowable is 35 dwelling units per acre in the Carlsbad Village Master Plan, which is based on the 2.23-acre site, allowing for 78 units.
The proposed density is 47.5 dwelling units per acre and includes a request for a density increase with the inclusion of affordable housing for 20 percent of the base density units, so 16 units, Werneke added.
Gerber, though, spoke at length about the project and his company’s outreach and vision for the building. He said speaking with neighboring residents gave those involved what the style and consistency should be to fit within the Village.
The features of the project include revitalizing the land and removing the large sign adjacent to I-5.
In addition, the architecture would resonate with the Village’s “beachy” feel along with amenities such as a 174-space parking garage, rooftop garden with gathering areas for barbecues and yoga and retail space totaling 9,659-sqaure feet.
The building would be four stories, sit back about 50 feet from I-5 with an access road on the east side of the loft for emergency access and walking and a private roadway about 100 feet from the current entrance.
“I’ve been working on this since late 2014,” Gerber said. “There is an opportunity to be better, an opportunity to take this land, which was a former gas station and dirt lot, and turn it into something that can really bring life into the entry of the Village.”
The proposed building’s height is at 45 feet, as architectural projections at this height would accommodate an elevator and stairwells, according to Werneke.
“In Carlsbad, folks are particularly concerned, as they should be,” Gerber said of the height. “We are at the 45-foot height, but our building starts setting back at the second level so we are pulled off the sidewalk a little. Since 1996, the Village Master Plan has provided for a building height of 45 feet. It’s important because it allows for developers to provide housing, the uses we want and parking, which is very important for the community.”
Gerber said his project was developed alongside his passion for reducing carbon emissions, increasing public transportation and using renewable sources for the construction.
In fact, Gerber said garage spaces for electric vehicles will be provided along with bike storage and bike racks to promote alternative means of transportation.
In keeping with the transportation theme, Gerber said in the lobby a transit schedule will be provided via a television screen.
Also, the U.S. Green Building Council for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) stated support for the project through a letter submitted to the city, according to Gerber.
“It started with looking at the architecture of the Village and in Carlsbad in general,” Gerber said. “We hear a lot about that quaint, beachy character and craftsman style. It was designed to pay homage … and bring a fresh appeal. We’ve done a lot of work with the community.”
However, 16-year Carlsbad resident Michael Curtiss said the project doesn’t fit the tradition of the Village. He questioned the parking numbers, which could burden the neighborhood due to more than one car per apartment.
He added the feel of the Village is being eaten away “little by little,” and the constant changing and encroachment of the Village is discouraging.
“My first thought was they are tearing down Denny’s,” Curtiss said. “It’s such a massive project right there at the beginning of the city. Instead of having something more low key and welcoming, people coming off I-5, there is a massive project.”
Gerber said one vision includes a future project connecting Grand Avenue under I-5 to the eastern part of the city.
The project proposes to include an irrevocable offer to dedicate, which would allow the city to claim the land needed on Grand Avenue to begin work with other entities to create an underpass.
Also, the project would extend the sidewalk on Carlsbad Village Drive, while the entrance to the shops and apartments would be moved 100 to 200 feet down the road to avoid a backlog from the I-5 off-ramp.
“That came out of the result of the planning process,” Gerber said of working with the city.
Geber’s efforts have also led to at least 14 letters of support, including the U.S. Green Building Council San Diego Chapter. One letter, though, came from Jessica Neisler, who recently moved to Phoenix, Ariz., saying she had little choice in the move, as Carlsbad does not offer enough affordable housing for her to raise her family.
“After years of rent hikes we were unable to afford an apartment that fit our soon to be four-person family in San Diego County; not to mention Carlsbad was just too far out of reach,” her letter read. “Case in point, we need more housing to be built in Carlsbad, especially those that offer affordable apartments like this project is offering.”