SOLANA BEACH — New plans for a vacant lot on the corner of Coast Highway 101 and Dahlia Drive were revealed for the first time publicly when council members at the Feb. 22 meeting unanimously approved funding to compete the environmental impact report and extend the professional services agreement.
Without factoring in two floors of undergrounding parking, the new development is about 10,000 square feet larger than the original proposal. But Brad Termini, co-founder and chief executive officer of Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners, said the new design was adapted “to meet all the community goals and desires.”
“On a square-footage basis, we’re slightly bigger but in a different format,” he said. “The buildings are lower and there’s more porousness through the site. We worked with our architect to redistribute the square footage.”
In addition to most of the buildings being 27 feet high or less, Termini said there are two other major differences between his mixed-use project and the previously proposed one.
Based on public input, his will have no grocery store and more connectivity and walkability throughout.
“There were a lot of neighbors that complained there was no way to walk through from Sierra (Avenue) to Pacific Coast Highway, so we created a public place that allows the public to walk through the project and separates the uses so it feels more pedestrian friendly from the street,” he said.
The earlier project also included a market.
“We didn’t feel the demographic supported a grocery store on Pacific Coast Highway,” Termini said. “We thought a better fit and bigger benefit would be to bring in new restaurants, cafes, places where the community could gather and dine, with a heavy focus on trying to curate really high-quality local groups to come in and fill those spaces.
“We felt, from our outreach to the community, that that was more of what the community was looking for,” he added. “And a grocery is a 20,000-square-foot box so it results in pretty uninteresting architecture and makes it difficult to create these public areas and these paseos that create connectivity through the project.
“If you have this 20,000-square-foot box, the nature of that prohibits you from doing all those things,” he said. “We listened to what the community said in the last public process and we understood that.”
American Assets Trust bought the 1.9-acre parcel in 2011 for $6.85 million. Some community members and nearby residents responded negatively to plans that were released about three years later.
In March 2015 the advisory View Assessment Committee voted against recommending that City Council approve the mixed-use complex after two nearby residents submitted claims stating that, based on story poles, it would block their east-facing views.
At a scoping meeting in July, residents criticized nearly every aspect of the project. With a maximum building height of 35 feet, they said the bulk and mass were too large.
Many said having only one entrance and exit on Dahlia could be problematic. Some questioned the need for a market. Other concerns included increased traffic, noise and lighting, the safety of children who walk and ride bikes on South Sierra and parking.
The lot, which is currently home to an abandoned trailer park and run-down buildings, was listed for sale in December 2015 for $9.5 million.
Termini, an 8-year Solana Beach resident, said he began the process to purchase the property about nine months ago.
“My company develops mixed-use communities throughout Southern California,” he said. “Living here I watched that site sit vacant every day when I walked my dog past the blight.
“We got involved because we wanted to build something great for the community and something that we could be proud of,” he added.
The new proposal includes 25 apartments, retail space, a “heavy emphasis” on food and beverage businesses and creative offices for internet, technology and action-sport companies.
“We’re seeing new-age companies wanting to be a part of Solana Beach,” Termini said. “We’re seeing a lot of demand from new-age creative office users who want to be a part of the community, local people who want to have their businesses here. They don’t want to be driving into Sorrento Valley.”
Council members approved $86,890 in funding for Harris & Associates to complete an environmental report for the Zephyr project, as well as $8,580 for additional project management services from CityPlace Planning.
Zephyr will reimburse the city for those expenditures.
“Now that we have our application submitted to the city, we want to get out and talk to as many people as possible,” Termini said. “We are going to be rolling out some events where we can continue to garner community comments and get community feedback. We’ll be ready to release a schedule very shortly.”