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Community Community News Rancho Santa Fe

Valley Avenue complex approved

SOLANA BEACH — Eden Gardens will soon have one less abandoned lot. A mixed-use development at 636 Valley Ave. received unanimous support at the Feb. 25 meeting, the fourth time in nearly two years the project was presented to council members for approval.

“After three years of working closely with the community, council members and city staff, we are excited about moving forward with this project within the Eden Gardens community,” Josh Lichtman, from the development team of 636 Valley Avenue LLC, said.

Before council members got their first look at the project, Lichtman and his partners, whose company was previously called Sea Breeze Properties, met with community members and city staff to garner input.

When initially presented to council in July 2013 the complex included one retail or office space and four dwelling units in one two-story and three three-story structures on the 10,800-square-foot lot.

Heights varied from a little more than 30 feet to slightly less than the maximum allowable 35 feet.

Residents and council members supported improvements on the lot that currently includes an abandoned house, dead grass and branches, weeds and a rotting knocked-over mailbox.

But they said the proposed project was too large and did not fit the character of the neighborhood, so the developers were sent back to the drawing board.

Two months later they presented a scaled-down version with the street-facing mixed-use building set back farther from the sidewalk.

The changes were applauded by council members and many residents but they said the project was still too big and not compatible with the surrounding area.

It was denied without prejudice so the applicants could make additional changes and resubmit plans without having to wait a year. However, it was another 16 months before the developers returned to council with an amended project.

Modified plans were presented again on Jan. 28 but council members still had concerns. The mixed-use building was relocated to its original position closer to the street — a change they didn’t support.

There were also issues with an existing power pole in front of the development. Because the street-fronting building was only 1 foot from the property line the location of the pole forced pedestrians crossing in front of the complex to walk in the roadway.

The project that was re-presented and finally approved at the Feb. 25 meeting includes the mixed-use structure with space for one office or retail business on the first floor and one housing unit on the second story and two two-story units.

The overall project was reduced by 110 square feet and the first floor of the mixed-use structure was set back another 3 feet from the property line facing Valley Avenue.

There were also changes made to the second-story roof and deck that lowered the mixed-use building height and reduced its bulk and scale to provide a “warmer feel” on the street, Lichtman said.

He also said it wasn’t financially feasible to move the utility pole, however, pushing the building farther off the street improved pedestrian circulation.

The project will next be presented to the California Coastal Commission. If approved construction is expected to begin within the next 12 months, with completion by the end of 2016, Lichtman said.

Project costs are still being finalized and are not currently available, he added.

“I’d really like to thank the applicants for sticking with this,” Councilman Dave Zito said. “It’s great to see people make adjustments and come back. … I’m appreciative of the changes.”

“I think when you look at the first rendition and you look at this, there is a huge difference, and it’s a much improved project,” Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “It’s a very visible project in Eden Gardens, and I think we got it right.”

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