Encinitas approves permits for Sunshine Gardens apartment project 

A rendering of Sunshine Gardens.

Plans call for 140 units on what’s now a plant nursery at the busy Encinitas Boulevard


A proposal to build a 140-unit apartment complex on a plant nursery property at the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Quail Gardens Drive won unanimous permit approval from the Planning Commission last week.

“This seems like a really good project for us,” Commissioner Steve Dalton said as he listed off elements of the project that he found extremely praiseworthy.

Among other things, Dalton said, he particularly liked the “wraparound” building design because it would hide a planned parking structure behind the apartment buildings. He also praised plans for a one-acre, park-like walking area along the south side of the property, noting that area will be open to the public.

Commissioners Kevin Doyle and Susan Sherod said they thought the site was one of the best places for higher density housing out of the 15 identified in a previously approved, citywide housing planning document and noted that there’s a bus stop in front of the site.

Doyle commented that the developer’s proposed design was “a little heavy” in its use of stucco, but said that was just his personal view. He also didn’t like the “industrial” look of some of the planters.

“Would you be amenable to friendly suggestions?” he asked the developer’s representative Brian Grover, who responded that they probably could consider different plant containers.

Because the project site is among those listed within the previously approved housing planning document and this is considered a “by right” development project, commissioners could not require any design changes that were not based on objective standards, Commission Chairman Bruce Ehlers said. Commissioners could ask if the developer might consider things like changing the planters, but not require it, Ehlers said. He added that he hoped Grover would work with the North County Transit District to upgrade the bus stop area.

Grover said he’d definitely support a bus stop upgrade, adding that he’d gladly accept the city’s help working with NCTD to make it happen.

Plans call for the 3.43-acre Quail Gardens site to contain 76 one-bedroom units, 58 two-bedroom units and six three bedroom units. Out of the 140 total units, 21 will be set aside for low-come people.

The apartment complex is proposed to be three stories tall and will surround a parking garage that’s technically considered a four-story structure, but its lowest level will be partially below ground. In order to have a four-story structure, the developers needed the commissioners to approve a waiver from city building standards. The project also required Planning Commission approval of a design review permit and a coastal development permit, as well as a boundary line adjustment request.

Commissioners were unanimous in the permit approvals, but conflicted over whether the development plans went far enough to accommodate delivery trucks dropping off packages and other likely traffic congestion concerns. Ehlers said he thought a proposed truck loading zone wasn’t big enough and the traffic turning circle area wasn’t as well designed as it could be, but others on the commission said they didn’t share those concerns.

Doyle said the city had an “escape valve” when it came to dealing with any congestion issues at the site’s proposed gated entrance. Under the terms of the project’s permit approval, the city can order the gated entrance to remain open if congestion at the entryway becomes a problem, he noted.

Dalton said that the property’s owners will likely “be the first ones to jump on it” and resolve the problem because the occupants of the leased apartment units will complain if there’s congestion at the entrance.