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Project manager John La Raia, center, from H.G. Fenton Company explains to residents a revised story pole plan for Solana Highlands during an April 15 onsite workshop. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Project manager John La Raia, center, from H.G. Fenton Company explains to residents a revised story pole plan for Solana Highlands during an April 15 onsite workshop. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Community Community Featured News Solana Beach

Revised story pole plan OK’d

SOLANA BEACH — Council members unanimously approved at a special May 6 meeting a revised story pole plan for the complete remodel of an apartment complex on the corner of South Nardo and Stevens avenues.

As it seeks to demolish and replace Solana Highlands, owner H.G. Fenton Company asked council in March to waive the installation of about 30 percent of the story poles, which are required for developments that will exceed 16 feet in height in an effort to show the general height and bulk of structures being proposed. Traditionally they consist of poles, wires, flags and a support system.

When the developers began the installation process in January they discovered some of the poles and related support structures would be in driveways, fires lanes and parking spaces. During an onsite visit the fire chief and fire marshal confirmed that many of the poles, if installed where proposed, would create a public safety hazard because they would make it difficult or impossible for responders to access the site.

Many residents opposed the waiver request, saying they needed to see a complete picture of the proposed remodel.

Council members asked the developers to refine the plans and hold a public workshop, which they did on April 15. About 40 people attended the meeting, which included an onsite visit, and most seemed to support the revised proposal.

Under the new plan, 134 traditional story poles will be installed. A triangulated system with horizontal flagged wires indicating rooftops will be used in place of 26 other poles.

Support poles and wires in a different color will replace another 48. A soft marker will be used rather than a hard pole for the triangulated points.

A flag system will drop down from a support wire strung across a drive aisle. Plans also call for nine offset poles and one boom lift.

Under the offset method six of nine locations will show the buildings larger than what will actually be built and three will be smaller. String lines will be a few inches to about four feet from where the actual building corner will be in an effort to avoid hazards in the drive aisles, allow access and increase public safety.

Striping will be used to indicate poles that are not in their exact proposed locations.

A legend will be provided so people know if the pole is higher or lower than it should be. A building’s exact location will be shown on the ground in spray paint. The boom lift will be used at the southeast corner of the site to indicate one building height.

Once the system is in place, representatives from Fenton will hold two workshops at various times on different days to explain the project to as many people as possible. They also agreed to meet with residents by appointment if none of the workshop times are convenient.

Installation of the system is under way and will take about two weeks to complete. It will remain in place for a minimum of 30 days. Built in 1972, Solana Highlands currently includes 194 rental units and three single-family homes.

Fenton, which bought the 13.4-acre complex in 1998, is proposing to increase that to 260 one- and two-bedroom apartment homes, 32 of which will be affordable, in 25 two- and three-story buildings with 525 parking spaces.

Nearby resident Gina Jacobs said “it would have been impossible to gain insight into the scope and ramifications” of the project if the waiver had been granted because once built it will be a “substantially different feeling” than what’s there now. “We’re happy that it’s changed. It sounds very complex to me,” she said. “I appreciate the fact that they’re offering to work with the community and meet us personally or in groups.”

Council members agreed.

“Even if we could do just a regular story pole plan it would be complex,” Councilman Peter Zahn said. “I appreciate the applicants’ efforts,” Councilman Dave Zito said. “It’ll be a learning experience for all of us.” “Thank you for your creativity and innovation in coming up with this,” Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “I think that will go a long way as we get to the next phase of public input on the project.”