ENCINITAS — A proposed renovation of an Old Encinitas hotel has become a heated battle between local businesses and residents over the issues of noise and alcohol along Coast Highway 101.
The Planning Commission on May 18 will consider the proposed conversion of the Portofino Beach Inn on Coast Highway 101 north of Encinitas Boulevard into a 44-room upscale boutique hotel with a full-service restaurant, a 600-square-foot lobby and bar area with eight bar stools and 24 seats, a rooftop deck and a pool area.
Encinitas planning staff has recommended the planning commission approve the project, and the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce has voiced support for the plans.
But neighbors have cried foul over some of the new amenities — namely the bar, pool and rear room balconies — which they said would be magnets for noise and alcohol-related concerns.
The ownership group, 101 Hotel, Inc., said they have done everything in their power to be transparent with residents, including amending the plans several times to appease some of the concerns.
“It is a passionate group, and all I can say is that we feel we have done everything to receive the feedback and modify the hotel design, but it will probably still be a lively discussion,” said Tammy Scott, a community liaison for the ownership group. “Our goal is to be good neighbors and continue to work with our neighbors, and hopefully we can move past this on Thursday and come together.”
The Coast News reached out to Benjamin Gershman, who has spearheaded some of the citizen concern over the project, but had not reached him by the time of publication.
The ownership group purchased the hotel, which had become a magnet for illicit drug use and prostitution, in 2015, with the intent to transform it into an upscale hotel akin to the Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Scott said 101 Hotel has been working on these plans for two-and-a-half years; the first citizen participation plan took place in November 2015.
But most of the concerns started when ownership applied for a Type 47 liquor license, which allows for the on-site sale of alcohol associated with a restaurant. Scott said the group originally applied for the incorrect license and corrected with the Type 47 application.
Residents have clashed with restaurant and entertainment establishment owners in recent years over the proliferation of Type 47 licenses along the Coast Highway 101 corridor. Neighbors argue that the restaurants essentially morph into bars after 10 p.m., stopping food service and continuing to serve liquor.
In the case of the Portofino, residents expressed concern that the restaurant area could become another such bar location in the late night hours. They also argued that the rooftop deck, pool and rear balconies could become magnets for loud partygoers, spoiling the serenity of residents just west of the hotel.
The concerns prompted the ownership group to hold another community meeting on April 1, which lasted three-and-a-half hours.
Scott said that in response to these concerns, the ownership group changed the hours and design of the hotel.
For example, rather than keeping the restaurant area open until 2 a.m., as is granted with a Type 47 license, the hotel has proposed closing at 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at midnight Friday and Saturday and closing the outdoor areas an hour earlier.
The group has also nixed plans to request approval for acoustic bands to play in the lobby, agreed to shut off the hotel’s proposed speaker system at 9 p.m., performed a noise study and decreased the size of the outdoor balconies, Smith said.
Also, Scott said, the pool and rooftop areas will only be accessible with a room key.
Still, Scott said, she understands that community members still perceive that the traffic, noise and alcohol service will impact their quality of life.
“If the project goes through, the commitment is still there to work with and to coexist with the neighbors,” she said.
The Planning Commission meeting is at 6 p.m. May 18 at the City Council chambers, 505 S. Vulcan Avenue, Encinitas.