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Council says mixed-use project needs work

SOLANA BEACH — Plans for a mixed-use development at 636 Valley Ave. were sent back to the drawing board at the July 10 meeting after council members said they supported improvements to the vacant lot but had several concerns about the project. 

Sea Breeze Properties is proposing to build four structures on the 10,874-square-foot lot that currently includes a boarded-up, single-family home that would be demolished, dead grass, weeds and tree branches, a few pairs of abandoned jeans and a rotting knocked-over mailbox.

One building would include commercial space for an office or retail business on the ground floor and a two-bedroom unit on the second story. The other buildings would be three-story, three-bedroom detached, townhomes, each with a first-floor enclosed garage and two levels of living area.

The buildings would vary in height, from a little more than 30 feet to slightly less than 35 feet. The maximum proposed square footage is 7,530, with the structures ranging from 1,833 to 2,000. The site could be developed with up to 13,049 square feet.

Although the project is below the allowable size by more than 5,500 square feet, council members still had concerns about its size.

“Eden Gardens was established by 30 families of Hispanic descent who still live there,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “It’s a very tight-knit community. It’s very family oriented.

“This is a very special place,” she added. “I’m frankly just not comfortable with the way it’s being developed.”

Heebner said the area has a lot of history but developers have yet to create any architecture that respects that.

“It’s just something that’s being crammed in there,” she said. “I am really struggling with the relationship with adjacent land use. … Certainly it’s much better than what was there before and what is here right now, but is this the direction we want to see … Eden Gardens going?”

Sitting on the vacant lot at 636 Valley Ave. now are dead grass and weeds and an abandoned one-story house. The mailbox has been knocked sideways. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Sitting on the vacant lot at 636 Valley Ave. now are dead grass and weeds and an abandoned one-story house. The mailbox has been knocked sideways. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Heebner described the existing buildings as “quaint, small, historical” structures. “This is shooting up into the air in a very stark manner with no real respect to what is there,” she said before asking the developers to create a “more graceful transition” into the neighborhood.

Heebner’s colleagues agreed and had other concerns as well. As designed the project fulfills the parking requirement of 14 spaces, but that includes only one guest stall.

“One of the biggest problems we have with developments like this is there just isn’t enough guest parking,” Councilman Tom Campbell said. “There’s a great likelihood there’s going to be more than one guest there for these four places at any one time and I just want to make sure the layout can handle that overflow.”

The developers said the commercial spaces could be used after hours by residential guests. If that arrangement isn’t made, the city attorney said council members could only ask for additional spaces if a parking problem is a result of the project.

It was noted that is unlikely since parking in the area is already tight.

Of the five residents who addressed council on the development, two support it, two are opposed and one said he is “85 percent there.” The city received letters of support from four additional residents.

“This building is just way too large to maintain the character of our community,” Lisa Montes, a community leader in La Colonia de Eden Gardens, said. “When I saw the (story) poles go up my heart broke. … It’s right smack in the heart of Eden Gardens.”

Teresa Correa lives behind the proposed project.

“My view of this valley will become the backs of buildings,” she wrote in an e-mail to the city. “I believe that the project will enhance the community but it is too large. There is no supported proof that the project will reduce crime or bring jobs. However, one guarantee is an increase in traffic.”

Keith Harrison owns the adjacent property to the south at 644-648 Valley Ave.

“I believe this project will benefit the Eden Gardens community by removing an uninhabitable structure that is an eye-sore to the whole area,” he wrote. “With limited commercial buildings and multi-family housing in the area I believe this project will bring additional jobs and investment to our community.”

Bob Neeley, who owns three parcels in Eden Gardens, said the project will “eliminate an abandoned, run-down home with a quality mixed-use commercial and residential project.”

“I am pleased the project will have some much needed residential multifamily units that will represent a more reasonable price point and diversity of housing needed by the city,” he wrote. “Overall, I am impressed by the architectural design.”

Noting that the project is about 20 percent smaller than what is permitted for the site, architect Scott Maas said it is not oversized based on the zoning for the area.

“It’s not a big project based on what’s allowable,” he said. “We tried to keep somewhat of a smaller scale.

“We’re certainly willing to work on some of these details to address some of the issues that have been raised,” he added.

The developers said they haven’t decided whether the units will be leased or sold. If they are for sale, they estimated the prices would be in the high $500,000s or low $600,000s.

Council will continue discussing the development at its Sept. 11 meeting.


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