CARLSBAD — The gateway to Carlsbad Village will be getting a new face.
A mixed use project proposing 106 apartments and retail space known as the Carlsbad Village Lofts between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue was approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The council agreed it was the right project, time and location to welcome residents and visitors at the gateway of Carlsbad Village.
Evan Gerber, who has worked on the development stages, community outreach and adjustments to his initial vision for the past four years, said he is thrilled with the council’s decision.
He said the project should be completed in about two-and-a-half years.
“I knew it was going to be tough to get a 5-0,” Gerber said of the vote. “We worked hard at it and I’m really happy with the outcome and we earned it tonight. I’m proud and I’m relieved.”
The plan calls for the Denny’s restaurant on Grand Avenue to 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.
The Motel 6, meanwhile, will remain open during and after construction.
The 2.23-acre site will come with amenities such as a 185-space subterranean parking garage, rooftop garden with gathering areas for barbecues, rooftop solar panels with solar powered water heating and retail space totaling 9,659-sqaure feet.
The building will sit back about 50 feet from Interstate 5 with an access road on the east side of the loft for emergency and walking and a private roadway about 100 feet west from the current entrance of the dirt lot.
“We know this is going to take more load,” Mayor Matt Hall said. “We know this building is going to be here for many, many years, so let’s make it the best it can be today.”
During the meeting, meanwhile, most of the public speakers supported the project with one resident noting he has never met a developer who knocked on his door to gather his input.
However, hesitation from the council came from the soon-to-be extended Interstate 5, its off ramp and affordable housing considerations.
Mayor Matt Hall led the discussion concerning Caltrans’ massive I-5 widening project, which include adding a westbound lane on Carlsbad Village Drive. He said the city knows the project is coming, so it is best to plan for those efforts.
“I don’t know what Caltrans is going to do, but I think we would want to plan that they will take their full dedication and we’ll be lucky that’s all they take,” Hall said. “This is the cornerstone of how things come into the city. It should not only be the cornerstone today, but the cornerstone for 10, 15, 20 years from now.”
A 10-minute recess was called so Gerber, his associates and city staff could discuss how it would affect the project. Gerber said there are about five to six feet from the curb to the property line and another 10 feet dedicated to the city plus another seven to eight feet. The goal is to have up to 10 feet of sidewalk access for the project.
“We believe we have enough room there,” Gerber said. “There was some confusion about where all those lines are occurring.”
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, meanwhile, peppered Gerber about the affordable housing element, which she asked if Gerber would be willing to accept renters using a 60 percent cap of average median income (AMI) for the 16 units.
San Diego County uses an 80 percent AMI threshold. Rents, he said, are typically set at 70 percent, while Schumacher was asking for 60 percent.
Gerber agreed, although, the added affordable housing conditions are not officially part of the approval. Currently, there will be 16, or 20 percent of the units, designated affordable housing.
Councilman Mark Packard disagreed with the added condition, noting the city should stay consistent with other residential projects and their percentages, which is 70 percent of AMI.
That battle will continue until the final agreement is signed.
“I would like to recommend … that we apply the same income standards we do for all other projects in our city,” Packard said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to ask that. I think this project should be consistent with all the other affordable projects. Those costs just get passed on to the other tenants.”
Other points of contention for residents in opposition were the height of the project and parking.
An elevator shaft, which provides access to the roof, is currently at 59 feet, 14 above the limit for the Village. Gerber said one to two feet may be able to be removed, but the engineering to lower it further is not possible without removing the entire shaft.
Many on the council agreed, but Hall noted a nearby church stands at 50 feet and said often time height is more of architecture rather than use.
“Two to three stories is my comfort level,” he added.
Another resident said the project will create even more parking issues in the neighborhood, saying delivery trucks and visitors will clog up street parking.
Gerber and his team, though, said the project provides adequate parking and touted the project as a way for its tenants to rely less on cars and use bikes, sidewalks and access to public transportation.
“We are in a situation where we got a Climate Action Plan,” Councilman Michael Schumacher (no relation to Cori Schumacher) said. “I like the idea of having people living closer to services. If we are going to get serious the Climate Action Plan and going to get serious about getting cars off the road, these are the types of projects … that make sense.”