SOLANA BEACH — The owner of a large apartment complex built more than four decades ago would like to demolish and rebuild the entire community.
Preliminary plans were introduced to the public March 4 and 13 during identical open houses, during which attendees were urged to provide input — good and bad.
Solana Highlands, built in 1972 at 701 Nardo Ave., currently has 194 one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
H.G. Fenton Company, which bought the complex in 1998, is proposing to increase that to 260 one- and two-bedroom apartment homes with washers, dryers and storage spaces for all units, parking garages for all but about 10, updated interiors and Craftsman-style exteriors designed by Steve Dalton, who grew up on Nardo and was the architect for the renovated Fletcher Cove Community Center.
There will also be more recreational and fitness features as well as bicycle and pedestrian-friendly landscaping.
A key element in the revitalization is an increase in onsite parking, from about 1.5 spaces per unit to more than two.
“Our hope and desire is to have adequate parking onsite to take cars off the street,” Mike Neal, president of H.G. Fenton said.
The current 285 parking spaces within the complex will increase to 525, an 85 percent gain for 34 percent more units.
“This project will allow us to alleviate parking issues,” John La Raia, the project manager, said.
The current four entrances off South Nardo will be reduced to two. The main entrance will be moved farther east on Nardo, closer to Stevens Avenue and away from Fresca Street, to guide traffic toward Interstate 5 and away from the surrounding neighborhood.
Also proposed are a variety of traffic-calming measures, such as “chokers,” curb extensions, raised crosswalks and medians, narrower lanes and speed humps.
George Boyd, who lives north of the development, said at the March 4 workshop that he would like Nardo to be made wider, with a stop sign at Fresca.
“I’m all for calming,” he said. “But Nardo is already too narrow.”
The 13-acre site will be divided into three distinct communities. Two-story bungalows will be located along Nardo. Lifestyle units will be situated around the pool area, while the valley view component will have views of the surrounding valleys and Del Mar Fairgrounds.
All new buildings facing Nardo will be no taller than the existing ones and the setback for those dwellings will be increased. The tallest buildings will be three stories, located at the southern edge and southeast slope toward Stevens Avenue.
The modernized complex will also include several sustainability features, including electric vehicle charges, energy-efficient appliances, drought-tolerant landscaping, a community recycling program and a saltwater pool with solar heating.
To comply with city regulations, there will be 32 affordable units for those in the “low-income” category. The original project had 39 affordable units for renters classified at very-low and very, very-low income levels.
That obligation expired in 2010 and many of those units converted to the market rate. There are currently 22 income-restricted apartments.
The project will be completed in three phases to allow residents to remain in the complex, but in a different unit, during construction. There is no start date or any estimate as to how long the project will take to complete once it begins.
City Manager David Ott stressed that nothing has been approved by the city.
“They have to make it better than it is today and show how they are going to make it better,” Ott said. “Eventually it will get to City Council, but we’re not there yet.”
Ott said he encouraged community outreach and the developer “said they wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“We want your feedback,” La Raia said. “We’d love to hear if this is something you like or don’t like.”
Comments overall at the March 4 open house were positive, but residents did have a few concerns.
Phil Weber, who lives near the complex, worried that residents would use the garages for storage rather than cars, which wouldn’t solve the traffic and parking issues.
La Raia said H.G. Fenton will cancel a lease if a tenant is not using the garage for vehicles.
“That is a huge deal for us,” he said.
Weber also wasn’t thrilled that all of the trees would be removed during grading since they currently block his view of the complex. La Raia said most were diseased or dying and they will be replaced with new trees.
Weber was also concerned about the project timeline. “I like the design,” he said. “The buildings are nice. But I’m worried about the dust and noise mitigation. I’d rather have it messy for a while and done.”
“We want the phasing to flow and be done back to back,” La Raia said, adding that a construction plan has yet to be developed.
He said it’s too early in the process to estimate what the rental prices will be. Current rates range between $1,500 and $2,200.
Community members can view the 3-D model, meet the manager and ask questions at the leasing office from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. every other Tuesday beginning March 25.