ENCINITAS — The sister project to the Alila Marea Beach Resort will move forward after the Encinitas City Council knocked down an appeal questioning the project’s impact on local infrastructure and the coastal environment.
The council on Aug. 10 denied the Friends of Seabluffe’s appeal of the Marea Village project located at 1900 and 1950 North Coast Highway 101.
Marea Village, proposed by developer Larry Jackel of Encinitas Beach Land Venture, consists of 94 rental apartment units, 34 hotel units and six other building. The Planning Commission approved the mixed-use development on June 16 before Friends of Seabluffe, named for the neighborhood to the southwest, appealed the project.
While some voiced opposition, many residents spoke in favor of the project, noting the city’s “luck” in its relationship with the developer.
“I think we’re incredibly lucky as Encinitas residents to have a developer (Jackel) that lives in the area and takes this special and unique quality and character of Encinitas in mind,” said Tammy Temple, calling it an attractive addition to the community.
However, despite its “model” public application process, Isabela Rodriguez, of the law firm of DeLano & DeLano representing Friends of Seabluffe, drew attention to a statement of overriding considerations, which acknowledges “the required VMT (vehicle miles traveled) reduction needed to fully mitigate the VMT impact cannot be achieved,” according to project documents.
“I would just like to remind the council that there was an alternative in the EIR (environmental impact report) … which did reduce impacts to the environment, but still achieved many of the project objectives,” Rodriguez said. “However, the applicant has stated that they’ve made every concession possible, but this alternative was not adopted or seriously considered.”
The site sits on two parcels that have designated residential units per the Housing Element to help the city meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment goals and qualify for a density bonus.
However, the appellant argued the project’s size and impact were grounds for denial. The Friends of Seabluffe were also concerned with safety as a result of additional stress of the large development, including a 257-stall subterranean parking garage, on local infrastructure and coastal land.
The developer’s attorney, Marco Gonzalez of Coast Law Group, countered these concerns by noting the included work redirecting stormwater “actually helps the bluffs.”
“We hire experts to study the bluffs,” said Gonzales with Coast Law Group, after a series of commenters made observations of potential environmental impacts of construction. “[The studies] found that the more than 1,200 mini seismic events that happen every single day, whether they’re naturally occurring or from the train, actually cause a greater impact to the bluffs than we would ever have in our location building an underground parking garage.”
Other complaints by the Friends of Seabluffe pertained to the impact on the bluffs and the size of the project as inconsistent with city plans.
However, the city found that “no evidence was provided to support claims made regarding General Plan policy consistency,” planning manager Anna Colamussi told the council.
City staff recommended denying the appeal and moving forward with the Planning Commission’s decision to accept the Marea Village environmental impact report and project permits.
While not related to the Friends of Seabluffe appeal, the council separately addressed the involvement of local tribes after the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians raised concerns over the development in June. Previously, a representative from the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians surveyed the parcels and remained on site for monitoring activities.
Commenters addressed Assembly Bill 52, a 2015 law establishing a process for tribal governments to get put on a notification list for city projects to help ensure intergovernmental engagement.
Bob Stark of Michael Baker International, the firm who conducted the environmental impact report, told the council the law didn’t apply in this case. Gonzales said he welcomes continued communication and collaboration with the local tribes and is willing to address any concerns.