By Bianca Kaplanek
SOLANA BEACH — A local developer is planning to transform a somewhat blighted vacant lot on Coast Highway 101 into a mixed-used project, the second such attempt in less than three years.
Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners acquired the 1.9-acre parcel between Dahlia Drive and South Sierra Avenue in April 2016 from American Assets Trust, which proposed a three-story complex with 31 residential units, a two-level below-grade garage, and restaurant, office and retail space that included a market.
American Assets then listed the property for sale in December 2015, about nine months after its project failed to receive approval from the city’s View Assessment Commission when two residents
said it would block their east-facing views.
“We had the benefit of listening to what the people said about the previous project, as well as the development at the train station,” said Ryan Herrell, vice president of urban development for Zephyr. “So we were able to start from a different perspective. We knew what wasn’t going to work for the community.”
Solana 101, as it’s being called, will include 25 rental units, about 16,400 square feet of commercial, restaurant and retail space, 45,500 square feet for “creative” offices and 366 parking spaces in a two-level below-grade garage.
The market was eliminated.
The maximum proposed height is 30 feet, with 85 percent of the buildings below 27 feet. All aspects of the development meet or exceed city requirements, Herrell said.
Although the Zephyr project is bigger than the previous proposal, it was designed to address resident concerns.
“It’s really about breaking up the masses and opening up the site,” Herrell said. “An open plaza through the middle of the project connects Sierra to the 101. We’re only covering 62 percent of the site.
“We’re not asking for any exceptions,” he added. “There’s no shared parking arrangements or deviations in setbacks. It’s slightly overparked.”
Another concern was traffic. Herrell said a study showed Solana 101 will generate about half of the parking trips proposed by the previous project.
All Solana Beach residents were notified about the project by mail. Additionally, Herrell said the developers met with several stakeholders, including the homeowner associations on the bluffs to the west.
One resident who filed a view assessment claim has since sold the unit. The developers met with the new owner, as well as the other person who filed a claim, and presented renderings to them depicting what their views would be.
So far, Herrell said, the feedback has been positive.
“People have been very receptive,” he said. “They’re very excited.”
About 100 residents attended an Oct. 28 onsite open house that featured renderings and opportunities to provide public input.
“I love it,” Kim Lubesnick said. “I’ve been living here since 2004 and this has been an eyesore for that long. We really need something to improve the neighborhood.”
Tommy and Cindy Roberts, who recently moved onto Sierra Avenue, said they like the mixed-use aspect.
“Our first impression is favorable,” he said.
Zephyr, which is also working on a proposal to build a bluff-top villa resort not far away in Del Mar, plans to present the plans to City Council in February and the California Coastal Commission after that for final approval.
In a perfect world, Herrell said, groundbreaking will take place in late 2018 for an opening in early 2020.
Another identical open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, Solana Beach residents can resister support via an online petition at https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-101-solana.
At press time about 115 people had signed on.
“As a local, I would absolutely love to see this creative development in Solana Beach!” Garrett Neal stated.
“This looks like a great addition to Solana Beach!” Holly Lewry wrote.
Greg Petre describes it as a “much needed shot in the arm for 101.”