Encinitas planners reject Surfer’s Point timeshare design

(File photo)

Board argues old permit has expired and developers need to come back with new project


The Encinitas Planning Commission took the unusual step Thursday, June 18, of denying a permit modification request for the controversial Surfer’s Point hotel timeshare project on the grounds that the original permit had long since expired.

Without the approval of the permit modification, the 25-unit timeshare project can’t satisfy state Coastal Commission requirements and thus can’t move forward.

Dumping this design and drafting something completely new would be a wonderful idea, commissioners said. The current plans are “very dated and poorly thought-out,” said Commissioner Kevin Doyle, who suggested the expired permit option as a reason to reject the permit modification request.

Others on the commission wholeheartedly agreed with his assessment and said the prime coastal project site --- a nearly 2-acre, vacant location overlooking Batiquitos Lagoon at the northeast corner of La Costa Avenue and Coast Highway 101 --- deserves something far better looking.

“This is the marque spot of Encinitas; it’s an absolute jewel,” Commission Chairman Bruce Ehlers told the landowner and his representatives. “You’re dropping a box on it. It looks awful.”

Representatives for the property owner, Dan Reedy, told the commission that this was the first time anyone with the city had said the design review permit was expired. They stressed that they had made the modifications they were required to do, and declared that the commission did not “have the legal power” to do what it was doing.

For some two decades, delays and conflict had dogged the project. Reedy purchased the property in 1999, and spent roughly a decade obtaining development permits for what was then proposed to be a 26-unit timeshare project. By the time he had all the permits in place and was ready to move forward, the last recession hit and he pushed the pause button, he has said.

When he started moving forward again some three years ago, he faced new issues, including tougher state stormwater control standards and a requirement that he make room for a railroad double-tracking project on the edge of his property. He’s now proposing to build his timeshare complex in two phases to accommodate the railroad project.

Because he shifted to a two-phase project, he needed new approvals from the city and the state. The state Coastal Commission directed him to make changes, including that he set aside some of the units as lower-cost rentals. Those changes then led to the request for a modified city design review permit.

Commissioners initially held a hearing on his permit modification request a year ago. They postponed their vote at that time and directed Reedy to rethink the roofline, building mass and view-blocking potential of his proposed design.

On Thursday, June 18, commissioners said it appeared that virtually none of their requests had been included in the latest revise, except for the changes to the landscape plans to require drought-tolerant, native plants. Instead, Reedy’s consultants wrote in their paperwork that the project already met the city requirements and didn’t need to make changes.

“I feel like we were ignored completely,” Ehlers said.

Before their vote to reject the permit modification request, commissioners listened as city employees read aloud about 30 public comment emails. Every one of them opposed the plans.

Many said they were concerned about traffic troubles, noting that there’s already a hotel project under construction across the street. Some said the city ought to purchase the property and turn it into a park to preserve a great surf-viewing spot.

--- Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune