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Encinitas Planning Commission approves project at former post office 

Encinitas
(Charlie Neuman)

Decision likely to be appealed to City Council

A revised development plan for the old Cardiff post office site won approval from the city’s Planning Commission Thursday, Nov. 5, but the battle over the project is expected to continue.

One opponent is threatening to sue and that means the commission approval undoubtedly will be appealed to the City Council, Chairman Bruce Ehlers noted.

Put forward by Cartega International Inc., the development plans call for demolishing the now-vacant postal building and other structures on the Newcastle Avenue site and replacing them with a row of shops and offices. The 18,039-square-foot, two-story development is proposed to look like multiple, small structures, but opponents initially charged that it looked like “two giant buildings.”

When commissioners first reviewed the plans at their Oct. 15 meeting, they agreed with the opponents that the design needed work and decided to continue the item to the Thursday, Nov. 5 meeting. The commissioners told the developers to use the extra time to make changes to the proposed roof line, create more walk-through space between the buildings, and provide more variety in the proposed vegetation, among other things.

On Thursday, Nov. 5, project architect Tom McCabe said they had made those changes, including reducing the roof height and altering the buildings’ exterior treatments to make them more visually appealing.

“It’s not just changing the color, it’s reinforcing the notion that these are small-scale buildings,” he said.

Commissioner Susan Sherod, an architect herself, said she felt the developers had done a good job of addressing the commission’s concerns and the new design was “quite good.”

Even the opponent who has threatened to sue — lawyer Darren Quinn, who lives behind the post office site — told commissioners before their vote that the latest revisions to the proposed roof lines were “a big improvement.”

“I’m not all doom and gloom,” he said. “There’s some good things that have been done.”

However, Quinn said, the proposed development could be “something that can be amazing” if more work was done, and stressed that he knew he wasn’t the only who felt the plans needed improvement because he was conducting an online survey of residents’ views.

Quinn said that nearly all of 70 people who participated in his survey said they had concerns with the plans and felt the project didn’t fit in with Cardiff’s character.

The only other public speaker, fellow project neighbor Emmy Garnica, said she thought it wasn’t realistic for project opponents to expect everything to stay the same in Cardiff. The latest redesign of the plans has taken “all sides into account” and provides “a good transition” from the residential area to the east and the commercial area to the west, she said.

The commissioners ultimately approved the proposal in a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Amy Flicker opposed and Commissioner Brett Farrow recusing himself because he lives near the project site.

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


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