After 30 years of planning, Leucadia hotel promises ‘barefoot luxury’

After 30 years of planning, Leucadia hotel promises ‘barefoot luxury’
Construction crews have started work near the intersection of North Coast Highway and La Costa Avenue earlier this month. The first phase of the project begins with a sand replenishment program. Photo by Gina Onori

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include quotes from Leucadia business owners and North County residents about the luxury hotel project. 

ENCINITAS — A luxury hotel three decades in the making will soon replace the boarded-up Cabo Grill & Cantina on its bluff-top perch overlooking South Ponto Beach near the intersection of North Coast Highway and La Costa Ave in Leucadia.

Fenway Capital Advisors and JMI Realty, which acquired the 4.3-acre site in 2017, began construction earlier this month of the $110-million project tentatively called the “Encinitas Beach Hotel.” 

The sprawling 226,000-square-foot boutique resort is scheduled for completion in 2021.

An artist’s rendering of the Encinitas Beach Hotel is pictured above. The luxury, eco-friendly resort boasts 124 rooms with ocean views. Courtesy photo

The project is headed up by longtime North County residents, Fenway Managing Partner Larry Jackel and JMI Realty CEO John Kratzer, who have expressed their desire to create a luxury experience while preserving the feeling and funk of Leucadia.

“When we thought of the theme and feeling of the hotel, what came to mind is ‘barefoot luxury,’” Jackel said. “It’s not stuffy, it’s laidback and relaxed —  the feeling you get when you’re in the Leucadia area.”

According to Jackel and Kratzer, research and development is ongoing. 

An important part of that process  has been conversations with members of Leucadia 101 Main Street Association and longtime Leucadia business owners Paul Ecke III and Fred Caldwell. 

John Kratzer of JMI Realty, left, and Larry Jackel of Fenway Capital Advisors.
Courtesy photos

“We’ve met with a lot of locals who own shops and who’ve been around for generations,” Jackel said. “The thing we continue to hear from everybody is, ‘what can you do to make this authentic and vintage to Leucadia?’ We are open ears to all those things and excited to be able to do something luxurious and authentic.”

The project’s opening phase will feature a massive sand replenishment program, returning an estimated 45,000 cubic yards of sand to the city’s beaches. 

The sand is anticipated to be excavated later this week and will continue through the end of February, according to Assistant City Manager Mark Delin.

“’The sand is a great match for Encinitas beaches,” Delin said. “(It’s) the same sandstone that has nourished the city’s beaches for years.” 

The proposal has overcome numerous regulatory hurdles over the years, receiving necessary approvals from the City Council, California Coastal Commission and California State Parks, according to the project website. 

Plans for the ambitious hotel, which were originally submitted in 1989 to the city of Encinitas as a companion development for La Costa Resort & Spa, include a main restaurant with a terrace and lounge, a bicycle-friendly café along North Coast Highway, an outdoor bar, a public spa, a fitness center for guests, meeting spaces, three wedding venues and a publicly accessible staircase from bluff to beach. 

The building former known as the Cabo Grill & Cantina at the top of a bluff near the intersection of North Coast Highway 101 and La Costa Avenue will soon be torn down to make way for the ambitious Encinitas Beach Hotel. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

As for its location on the Encinitas-Carlsbad border, one of the major selling points for future customers will be 124 rooms with unimpeded views of the Pacific Ocean and adjacent Batiquitos Lagoon.

The goal is to provide a gorgeous view while blending in with the local landscape — authentic and dynamic, but subtle.

“The way the hotel sits on the bluff, from an architectural perspective, we want it to look like the bluff grew up around it,” Kratzer said. “’The exterior of the building is intended to reflect the colors that exist in the environment. The building materials themselves will be predominantly wood, rock and materials that feel indigenous to the area.”

A view facing the Pacific Ocean from the bluff top where construction of the Encinitas Beach Hotel began earlier this month. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

The hotel will create an estimated 100-plus new staff jobs, another significant benefit to the local economy.

As for the name, “Encinitas Beach Hotel,” well, it’s not set in stone.

“We’ll take suggestions,” Kratzer said. “But to be honest, we want to go through the (immersion process) first before we name the hotel.”

Here’s what neighboring Leucadia business owners and residents are saying about the project:

“I think it’s a positive thing for business. As a resident I’m not a big fan. It was a great space for public use. It will bring more traffic to an already trafficked area.” — Ken Schulenvurg, owner Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream

“Dumping mud and sewer pipes, asphalt and cement directly into the ocean for the currents to carry north to the South Carlsbad state beach is wrong. I hope this eco resort will take long term responsibility for what they have done and continually clean up the debris from the beaches.” — Robin Purcell , South Carlsbad Resident 

“I think it’s great for business. It’s a great location and will bring a lot of revenue for the city.” — Todd Laird , owner O’ Hurleys Beach Bar

For more details and progress reports on the project, visit www.encinitasbeachhotel.com or find them on Instagram @encinitasbeachhotel

14 Comments
  1. taxpayer2017 3 months ago

    So, how did this Monstrosity get approved by the city planning. The development is still listed as incomplete in providing documents required for city permits on the city website. All of a sudden there are tall pile drivers – really natural rising from the sand. What do they plan to do about water runoff.

    • Sharon Lewis 6 days ago

      Payoff Big Time!!

  2. MattJack 3 months ago

    Traffic is already terrible anytime the 5 is backed up (waze takes them to PCH) and now this monstrosity is going to be another sh*t show getting into Leucadia/Encinitas.

    • Heidi 2 months ago

      Hear hear!

  3. Brian McInerny 3 months ago

    It’s good to know that we can build barefoot luxury hotels in the midst of a housing crisis water shortage traffic nightmare because then Encinitas can bring in more TOT taxes like its ugly stepsister to the north. The beauty is it will not affect Encinitas because it is practically in Carlsbad. Way to go city government. Don’t try and address the problems just add to it. Did you guys learn that from Carlsbad? You can’t legislate your way out of a housing crisis created by people who are sick of living in inhospitable regions. The successful ones will move to where the climate is much more tolerable. Infinite growth is not sustainable. When are we going to figure that out? Maybe the cities could use tax dollars to build housing for their servants and children.

    • Heidi 2 months ago

      The barefoot rich–ha! Delusional escapists.
      You nailed it.

  4. Traffic Nightmare 3 months ago

    This is such a bummer for so many reasons. Our beaches are already over crowded, it’s a pain to try and find parking during the summer (this hotel won’t help). Traffic is already gridlock ( this hotel won’t help) La Costa to PCH traffic backs up to the 5 during rush hour and almost all summer long. PCH north and south thru Leucadia is bumper to bumper and the “1lane project” is just an empty promise money pit that won’t solve any traffic issues. We are in the middle of housing crisis (not that I want more homes) and on/off drought crisis…this giant hotel won’t solve any of those issues.
    I feel for the folks that own homes off La Costa/Volcan/PCH, they didn’t sign up for this mess when they bought their homes and I don’t seeing adding any value to their homes either (some homes already up for sales to get out before this gets built).

  5. Jim Krupiarz 2 months ago

    Thanks Encinitas. We’re trying to keep developers’ hands off Ponto to preserve one of the last refuges from coastal commercialization and now this. It’s way worse than anything proposed within Carlsbad.

  6. Elizabeth banks 2 months ago

    The watercolor rending does not show where this monstrosity will sit on the bluff . Will the viewpoints that the residents currrntly enjoy be lost to this development? The top outlook is closed off now due to construction.
    The previous public comments about traffic, community benefits, ecological concerns show that John Kratzer of JMI Realty, left, and Larry Jackel of Fenway Capital Advisors were selective in getting input from the residents about “preserving the funk” whatever that means. Consulting with other developers didn’t give them any insight. Maybe they should have talked to people that go to grandview, ponto or Roberto’s

  7. Frances Walters 2 months ago

    I’ve been watching this project now since it started as I run by. My favorite are the New York style mafia bosses with their long coats walk around in the bike lane blocking access. They clearly are out of touch with the community. The workers are smoking right on the highway that walkers, runners and bikers are enjoying not to mention the cigarette butts. The morning commuters I see are backed up for miles trying to turn left from PCH to La Costa because the developers have shut down one lane (which gives a taste of what’s to come if “Streetscape” comes to fruition. Look, I understand the property owner is entitled to sell this valuable piece of property and progress has to come. Do we really need another hotel with two Hiltons just up the coast, luxury or not? Our Coastal Commission is failing us these past few years as they oust anyone who really cares about protecting our coasts with sound judgement. I know I’m aiming for Encinitas City Council like never before in the 12 years I’ve lived here.

    • Heidi 2 months ago

      Please run for office! We need people of conscience who live, work and experience life here over time to make the decisions that impact us all.

  8. taxpayer2017 2 months ago

    According to attorney Marco Gonzalez he had a hand in this hotel. As he has said, he works for developers.

  9. John Gama 1 month ago

    The traffic on PCH is already horrendous. Sewage and waste from this monstrosity will destroy the local beaches. When will the local governments (Encinitas, Leucadia, and Carlsbad) figure it out? The reason the local residents live here is the quality of life that you are destroying with these huge development projects. Coastal Commission where are you in all this? You have the ability and responsibility to stop these kinds of developments!

  10. Carl Sbad 3 weeks ago

    How do locals benefit by this tourist magnet?

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