SOLANA BEACH — For the second time this year, Solana Beach officials are recommending that a draft environmental impact report for a project in an adjacent city be revised and recirculated. At the April 14 meeting, council members unanimously authorized the city manager to submit comments to the city of San Diego regarding the Flower Hill Promenade renovations.
The 15-acre project site, east of Interstate 5 on Via de la Valle, is located in San Diego but has a Del Mar ZIP code. To the north, directly adjacent to Flower Hill, is the Lomas Del Mar housing development in Solana Beach.
Many of the comments from Solana Beach are similar to those the city made to the 22nd District Agricultural Association in February regarding expansion plans for the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Based on an initial review, staff found the Flower Hill EIR to be incomplete in identifying the project’s impacts and mitigation measures. The document is inadequate in addressing issues such as land use, noise, air and water quality, visual effects, neighborhood character, transportation, circulation and parking.
When the notice of preparation was released last year, Solana Beach submitted 10 comments. The city of San Diego, the lead agency for the project, only responded to three of them, the staff report states. San Diego also did not respond to comments from the Lomas Del Mar Homeowners Association.
Because Solana Beach provides sewer and first-responder public safety services to the site, it is considered a responsible agency, according to state law. But the EIR does not adequately address Solana Beach as an adjacent city and responsible agency.
“The proposed project will create significant, cumulative and unmitigated impacts to Solana Beach’s residents, visitors, businesses and public services,” the staff reports states. The document also doesn’t take into consideration any analysis of the impacts on Solana Beach when the proposed fairgrounds expansion and Interstate 5 widening projects are completed.
Ultimately, the report “failed to study, evaluate and provide feasible mitigation measures to reduce the adverse impacts to the city,” the staff report states.
Plans call to add about 61,000 square feet of commercial space to the existing 112,116-square-foot facility. The end project will include 8,754 square feet of retail space, nearly 29,000 square feet of office space and a 397-space multilevel parking garage. The 14,000-square-foot movie theater will be demolished and replaced with a 35,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market.
Flower Hill Drive will be realigned to improve traffic movement on San Andres Drive. According to the draft EIR, the project will most likely make traffic worse on nearby streets, including Via de la Valle.
Flower Hill Promenade was built in the 1970s. When Protea Properties bought the site in 2002, everyone agreed it needed rejuvenation. In response to community input, redevelopment plans have been scaled back twice since they were first introduced in 2005.
An opposition group, Citizens Against Flower Hill’s Excessive Expansion, said despite the changes, the proposed project is still too big for the area.
Solana Beach City Council members seem to agree. “There are some very serious omissions in this document,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said before she and her colleagues authorized submission of the letter to the city of San Diego.
In addition, council agreed with Heebner’s recommendation to also send the letter to County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, the California Coastal Commission, the Torrey Pines Planning Group and the Lomas Del Mar Homeowners Association.
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