Plans under way to to rejuvenate plaza

Expansion plans for Lomas Santa Fe Plaza have been available for public review and comment for a week, and property owner American Assets must be hoping no news is good news as there has been no input at all.
At the Aug. 27 City Council meeting, Chris Sullivan, vice president of retail leasing for American Assets, outlined plans to redevelop 6.2 acres of the existing 18.8-acre shopping plaza east of Interstate 5 and bounded by Lomas Santa Fe, Las Banderas and San Andres drives.
Dubbed a “lifestyles” commercial center, the project is designed to encourage pedestrian activity. Plans call to demolish about 20,000 square feet of existing retail, restaurant and office space anchored by Big 5 Sporting Goods and Ross Dress for Less. That will be replaced with 65,300 square feet of commercial retail and restaurant space in three, two-story buildings connected by a central rotunda. The Vons supermarket will remain as is.
The new center will feature pedestrian walkways, the existing historic water fountain and outdoor seating areas. The plaza will also include a two-level underground parking structure. The existing parking lot will be reconfigured, increasing the number of parking spaces from 807 to 1,056. The additional 249 spaces slightly exceed city parking requirements and do not include public parking on San Andres Drive.
No action was taken as the presentation was informational only. Overall, council members supported the project with a few recommendations. Mayor Dave Roberts said he had concerns about traffic, security and the impact of delivery trucks on surrounding neighborhoods.
Roberts said the existing entrance and exit driveways on Lomas Santa Fe are “poorly laid out” and need to be redesigned. “It’s really tricky and it’s not working,” he said. “We want to make sure people can get in and out easily.”
Roberts lauded American Assets for working with nearby homeowner associations that expressed security concerns. He asked that the company do the same to address delivery truck issues.
“We need to figure out a better way on the delivery truck problem for those folks,” Roberts said. He also asked Sullivan to consider working a community room into the project.
Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said she was unclear about the concept of a lifestyles center. “I don’t know if that has an industry definition, but when I hear it, I think of a couple of things,” Heebner said.
“One is that it’s a place where you can get your everyday errands done as well as do some really quality shopping at some really great places. But the other thing I think about is that it’s walkable and it’s actually a destination where you want to go and maybe just window shop or … meet somebody.”
Heebner also asked Sullivan if it could be designed so people “would choose this over another location.”
“We have a lot of choices,” she said. “Is there a way to make it something a little unique and a little different?”
Sullivan said American Assets, which owns Solana Beach Corporate Center on Stevens Avenue and Solana Beach Towne Centre just west of I-5, is already addressing many of the concerns raised by council members.
“All of those issues we’re looking at strongly because if it’s not convenient to shop at, it’s not doing anybody any good,” Sullivan said.
The original project application was filed in July 2005. In January 2007, story poles were installed on the site. Notices were sent to owners and residents within 300 feet of the property. During and after the 30-day review process, no requests for view assessment were submitted.
The current 45-day public review and comment period — about two weeks longer than the required minimum of 30 days — began Sept. 3. Residents have until 5 p.m. Oct. 16 to submit comments to the Planning Department at City Hall, 635 S. Coast Hwy. 101. All documents are available on the city Web site at http://www.ci.solana-beach.ca.us.
Once the review period ends, staff will respond to comments received. After any necessary and appropriate revisions are made the project will be returned to council for consideration later this year or in early 2009.
Construction, slated to begin in summer 2009, is expected to last approximately 18 months. The center is not scheduled to open until after current work on the Lomas Santa Fe/I-5 interchange is complete.
Tenants won’t be announced until after leases are signed. According to the company Web site, anchor stores in recent American Assets projects statewide include Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma and Hollister. The Lomas Santa Fe plans call for a sit-down restaurant. They do not include the new complex for North Coast Repertory Theatre because that is a separate project.

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