SOLANA BEACH — Words of support were in short supply during a July 20 scoping meeting for a proposed mixed-use development on Coast Highway 101.
Residents criticized nearly every aspect of the project, including the format of the meeting, which was held to garner public input on what should be evaluated in the environmental impact report.
American Assets Trust bought the 1.9-acre lot between Dahlia Drive and South Sierra Avenue in 2011 for $6.85 million. It currently is home to abandoned commercial buildings, single-family homes, a mobile home park and parking lots.
Plans call for 31 rental units in two- and three-story buildings, each with four to 10 one- or two-bedroom units ranging from 650 square feet to 1,025 square feet.
There will also be about 34,500 square feet of commercial and retail space that will include a specialty market and “high-quality, high-turnover restaurants,” approximately 14,100 square feet of office space, 341 onsite parking stalls and a two-level below-grade garage.
Commercial and retail businesses would face Highway 101. Parking for the residential units, which would front Sierra, will be separate and gated.
Most of the dozen or so speakers echoed the same concerns. The bulk and mass of the project, with a maximum height of 35 feet, is too large
“It’s huge,” Tracy Richmond said. “There’s not a lot of visual relief.”
“I’m totally against the size of this thing,” Gene Walker said. “You’re just trying to put too much stuff in this little box. We’re a very small city and I think that we really need to consider projects that are reasonably sized for a town of our population.”
Many also said having only one entrance and exit on Dahlia is problematic.
“Anybody that’s been around a shopping center that has one access point understands that it is a major problem not to have another way to get in and out,” Richmond said. “And those poor truck drivers. I pity them. I think one in-and-out isn’t a good idea, especially on a small street. Dahlia is a small street.”
Some speakers also questioned the need for a market.
“There’s no guarantee we’ll get one,” Richmond said, noting failed attempts in nearby cities.
Gerri Retman agreed. “What will happen to that big giant space that’s designed to be a grocery store should the market fail?” she asked.
Other concerns included increased traffic, noise, lighting from signage, the safety of children who walk and ride bikes on South Sierra and parking.
Speaking on behalf of the Clean and Green Committee, Jack Hegenauer requested a thorough energy analysis to address the city’s climate action plan.
“It’s not apparent exactly what’s being done to assist the city in meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals,” he said. “There’s not much evidence that the developer’s given a whole lot of thought to the solar installation aspect of this project.
“I’m concerned that the project doesn’t do nearly enough to offset its potentially huge carbon footprint,” he added. “This is one of those big-footprint projects … that are going to be huge consumers of energy, contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions within the boundaries of Solana Beach and make it ever more difficult for the city to meet its climate action plan goals of meeting the state-mandated targets.
“So any way you slice it it’s a major environmental impact,” Hegenauer said, later adding that he also has concerns about water use generated by the development.
American Assets is proposing to pay an in-lieu fee rather than build affordable units onsite. Bill Gifford said they should be included in the project.
Pat Coad didn’t mince words when sharing her opinion.
“I think this whole development is pretty ugly, and I don’t think it fits into Solana Beach,” she said. “We don’t need another market and we don’t need this development in our community.”
Not everyone was critical.
Jewel Edson said she likes the idea of areas slated for cultural events. She suggested using the grocery space for multiple vendors, a successful concept being used in other areas of the country.
Tom Ryan said he likes the idea of having a market across the street from his condominium because it would mean fewer driving trips to Vons on Lomas Santa Fe Drive east of the freeway. He said “a good number” of his neighbors would also walk to the new store for groceries.
Elizabeth Borst, who said she supports the project concept but it’s too big, also favors the grocery store. But she said it doesn’t need to be a high-end, specialty market.
“Work with the community and I think you’ll have more success that way,” she said.
The environmental impact report will address standard issues such as aesthetics, air and water quality, noise, land use, traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as concerns voiced at the meeting.
Written comments can be submitted until Aug. 17 to Corey Andrews, the city’s principal planner, at email@example.com.
In March, the View Assessment Committee failed to support the project after two residents filed applications stating the complex would impair their views.
City Council members will use that verdict, information from the EIR and comments made during future public hearings when considering the project for final approval.