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An Encinitas property owner has filed a lawsuit against the recently approved hotel renovation of the Portofino Beach Inn over alleged violations under the California Environmental Quality Act, including concerns about noise, parking, traffic and fire safety issues. Courtesy photo
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Lawsuit filed against Encinitas hotel renovation project

ENCINITAS — An Encinitas property owner has filed a lawsuit against a recently approved hotel renovation to be called The Ray, over alleged violations under the California Environmental Quality Act, including concerns about noise, parking, traffic and fire safety issues.

The complaint was filed Oct. 29 in San Diego County Superior Court by Coastal Defender, a nonprofit whose president Donald McPherson owns property next to the project site. The lawsuit alleges the public “will sustain damages that are impossible to determine” and “the environment itself will likewise suffer.” The suit also alleges that the project “will be constructed to the detriment of the neighboring community and the public at large.”

Coastal Defender is seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the city from “taking action on the project that may affect the environment until such time as the project’s defects are corrected and full compliance with CEQA and the EMC (Encinitas Municipal Code) is achieved.”

The luxury hotel will replace the shuttered Portofino Beach Inn, and will include 35 rooms and valet parking, and will add alcohol service with a hotel bar, a roof deck pool and bar area, and a restaurant.

The project, proposed by 101 Hotel, LLC, was approved by the Encinitas Planning Commission in May and by the Encinitas City Council in September.

At the September meeting, McPherson appealed the Planning Commission approval to the city council, to no avail.

The project was first proposed in 2015 and has gone through a number of meetings and hearings to get it to this point. In May 2017, the original project design was brought before the Planning Commission. They received public testimony, deliberated, and voted to continue the item off-calendar to allow the applicant to return with additional information regarding valet parking operations and more details in the traffic study. In response to the Planning Commission’s concerns, the applicant redesigned the project to reduce the room count from 45 to 35 units, with 10 loft units, and modified the existing three-story elements of the project. They also added a roof deck with a pool and bar to the design.

During the September appeal at the council meeting, Erik Gilmer, one of the managing partners of 101 Hotel, told council members they crafted their proposal utilizing input they received from the community, city staff and the planning commission. He said they put a lot of time, energy and resources to come up with a thoughtful project and want it to be an asset to the community.

“The current facilities represent an unorganized site in a blighted state, it’s underdeveloped, it’s been underutilized and it has the potential to be an incredible community asset,” Gilmer said. “That’s what drew us to the project in the first place. We thought this could be something really special that we can revitalize and provide as an awesome spot for visitors and for the community.”

At the meeting, Mayor Catherine Blakespear said it was unfortunate that even after all the time and effort spent, they weren’t able to come up with a project that everyone could agree to, but she felt the project deserved to move forward.

“It seems to me that The Ray does comply with the applicable regulations and that it will be a community-enhancing project,” she said.

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