A battle over the entry to an underground parking garage in Leucadia has been decided in favor of the developer.
At a public hearing on November 9, the Encinitas City Council voted to deny two appeals of the planning commission’s approval of the Beacons project, which will create new homes and an underground garage on the doorstep of current residents.
Valleyside Development, Inc., will build four residential and four retail condo units, along with the subterranean garage, adjacent to an alley where many residents have their only access to their homes. The site is on the corner of Coast Highway 101 and Europa Street, within the North 101 Corridor Specific Plan; a zone that merges commercial and residential uses.
Eleven residents spoke at the meeting, some arguing for the redevelopment of Leucadia, while immediate neighbors of the project opposed it.
“The alley is a street, not an alley,” said Leslie Murphy, who filed an appeal in August. Her home will be 22 feet from the garage, facing the narrow alley she says is a “street” since it provides the main access for residents. Trucks can block the way for hours, and there are safety concerns, she said. “Please move the parking entrance onto Europa.”
Scott Carter, who also filed an appeal and is a long-term resident of Europa Street, said the multi-level building is out of character with the neighborhood.
Mikayla McFadden, a member of the Encinitas Coastal Mobility and Livability Working Group, grew up on Europa, on the alley that used to be a dirt road.
“It’s not really an alley,” McFadden said. Since the building was allowed to be bigger than first proposed, a larger garage resulted. She envisions more traffic and pedestrian conflicts.
Kerri Calver, who lives on Europa Street, spoke with frustration about the traffic. “Every day I’m blocked in.” When she calls for help, fire and police can’t even find her, she said.
Property owner Allan Brent rents out a small cottage next to the Beacons project's south wall. The parking entrance was sited too deep in the alley, he said, which will leave his tenants to deal with fumes, noise, and lights.
“Would you want to sleep in this cottage with commercial traffic turning five feet away from your head?” Brent also wants the parking entry moved to Europa Street. There is no requirement that Valleyside place it deep in the alley, he said.
Real estate agent Roger Bodemer supported Brent, saying the “exciting” redevelopment of 101 should increase the home’s value — but the garage siting devalues it due to fumes and noise. Moving the parking entrance “should get key consideration.”
Other concerns raised were stormwater runoff, flooding, and the character of the seaside community, which some said is at risk of creating a maximum density project in a neighborhood.
The developers, John Mclean and Steve Winters, said they are also residents who care about their community.
“We’re not developers coming here from out of town,” Mclean said. They cited their “extensive treatment plan” for stormwater and benefits like a new sidewalk on Europa. The first design did have the entry off Europa, Mclean said, but that was before they got into the details of stormwater, parking-space limits, and angle of descent into the garage. “We moved the entry back to a far point to meet the code.”
Europa is now 100 percent commercial, the developers argued, saying they are erasing 60 percent of the commercial footprint. Winters noted their addition of four “much needed residential units.” (A speaker in support of the project said he was losing friends and family all the time for the lack of homes.)
During council discussion, traffic engineer Nestor Mangohig said the average daily traffic on 101 is over 17,000 vehicles; on Europa Street, 500–600; and the alley carries about 120–200.
Councilmember Catherine Blakespeare noted one reason for the alley parking entry: cars could back up on Europa if it was moved there. Planning commissioner Anna Yentile said the alley was chosen to create more of a pedestrian environment by moving cars to the rear of the building, as recommended in the North 101 corridor specific plan.
Councilmember Tony Kranz said the specific plan was created years ago. And, “it sometimes has impacts on neighborhoods west of the 101.”
In defense of the project, councilmembers found it meets the 100-year flood-plain requirements, conforms to Prop A and community planning, and that the area already has four commercial uses.
Deputy mayor Lisa Shaffer pointed out that new projects aren’t required to improve existing conditions; they are required to not make things worse.