SOLANA BEACH — A new café is being proposed for Cedros Avenue Design District, but the permit was delayed after council members at the Feb. 14 meeting asked the architect to possibly add some amenities and improve on-street parking even though he is not required to do so.
“I think this is a good project,” Councilman Mike Nichols said. “I think it’s a good reuse of a building. I don’t want to be Mr. Negative on this. I just want it to work.
“If you were able to look at this in a way where there’s some compromise I think we could come up with a solution to try to make this better for everyone,” he added.
The property at 435 and 439 S. Cedros, previously home to commercial businesses such as mini-storage and plumbing companies, is in the midst of a renovation.
Cedros Collective, as the project is being called, will include six retail and six office units, plus an approximately 1,300-square-foot café with a 540-square-foot outdoor patio on the southeast corner of the site.
Although a restaurant operator has not been selected, the property owner is seeking approval for a business that could be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner or any combination of the three.
Architect Brian Church said current plans call for 28 seats inside and 28 on the patio, but the exact number will be determined once an operator is chosen.
“That’s really pushing it,” he said. “Realistically it probably won’t be that many.”
The proposed café will serve beer and wine but not include a bar. The applicant is also not seeking approval for amplified music or live entertainment.
“There’s absolutely no plans for entertainment,” Church said. “It’s basically just a simple café.”
The applicant has leased space west of the building from North County Transit District to create 16 additional parking spaces, although only 13 are required.
There are about 10 spaces in front of the building on Cedros that are not in compliance with city codes. Since they are associated with the retail commercial component of the project, which is not a change of use, there is no requirement for them to be updated.
However, council members noted the new parking in the rear is tight and could prove to be difficult to maneuver when trying to exit the lot, which could deter people from visiting the new restaurant.
“I wouldn’t park there,” Councilwoman Judy Hegenauer said.
“I don’t care if they’re available or not,” he said. “Getting in and out of that space is going to be a pain in the butt even if I really like that café. And we want the … business to work.”
He suggested refining the on-street parking area, even if the result was the loss of one parking space, by possibly adding bike parking and improving the travel path for the disabled and the aesthetics.
“I have a hard time approving this,” he said. “It meets the letter of the code but … physically it’s not going to work.
“It just doesn’t feel like a very pedestrian-friendly experience,” Nichols added. “And I think that’s what will drive people to this space. It’s what drives Cedros.
“If you come back and say you … can’t do it we’re no further back than we would be today,” he said. “But I think I would feel much better knowing that you gave it a shot to try to not necessarily meet the letter of the law to a T but you tried to make this a better project.
“I know that talented folks can make creative things happen,” Nichols added.
“I have no problem working on potential alternative parking configurations,” Church said. “I enjoy that kind of thing.”
“I think whatever you come back with is going to be better,” Nichols said. “Let’s go all the way and make it nice.”
No one addressed council during the public comment period but the city received three emails. Resident Donald Nuzzo said he has concerns about noise, especially with an outdoor seating area.
Church and architect Stephen Dalton, whose businesses are on Cedros, wrote in support of the project.
“As South Cedros continues to mature as a legitimate design district, it is critical that the retail and office space on the street is supported, and energized by, restaurants and cafes,” Church wrote. “As one of the few properties on the street capable of providing enough parking to support a restaurant use, this is a key opportunity.
“It is also important to provide this use at this ‘far end’ of the commercial area to draw people further south from the busier north end of South Cedros,” he added.
Council will consider the project again at the March 14 meeting.