ENCINITAS — Leucadia Towing’s bid to relocate its operations from the former Pacific View Elementary site to city property on Santa Fe Drive was struck down by a divided city council Wednesday night, as the voting majority said the site was too close to nearby homes.
The council voted 3-2 to uphold the Planning Commission’s December decision to deny Leucadia Towing’s request to move to the grounds, which is currently being used as a storage yard by the San Dieguito Water District. Mayor Kristin Gaspar and council members Catherine Blakespear and Mark Muir voted against the request.
The council majority said they believed that the project was incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood: the property is abutted on two sides by residential neighborhoods.
“I don’t feel this is compatible with the neighborhood,” Blakespear said. “That zone could have other things that would be more compatible than what is being proposed.”
The council’s decision surprised Leucadia Towing owner Joe Radick, who was flanked by several supporters that spoke at the council meeting urging the city to sign off on the move.
Radick has been operating at the Pacific View site for several years, but most recently was there on a pair of six-month leases after the city approved the purchase of the property in late 2014.
The proposal called for the tow truck company to use half of the 33,000-square-foot site and install a 250-square-foot office trailer, two parking spaces for patrons, 20 spaces for towed vehicles and nine spaces for fleet vehicles. In order to limit the noise emanating from the property, the project also called for two, six-foot-tall masonry walls, the maximum height allowed under the city code.
“I am kind of shocked,” said Radick, who said he has been looking for a permanent home for the business since 2005. “If I can’t find a location that is in Encinitas, it is pretty much going to put me out of business.”
Among the supporters of the business was former Encinitas Mayor Sheila Cameron, who said the towing company provides a valuable service for Encinitas residents, especially American Automobile Association members, for whom Leucadia Towing provides contract services such as lockouts and emergency towing.
“We need Leucadia Towing in this city,” she said. “It saves lives, literally.”
Several neighbors, however, expressed concern that the trucks would generate noise around the clock, clog traffic in the area and create hazards for pedestrians.
Radick said that the business only has two trucks in operation at most times, and that most of the business the company does is roadside assistance. He said a small portion of the business is towing cars illegally parked at private establishments.
“It isn’t a round the clock noisemaker,” Radick said. “We have been good neighbors at Pacific View. That is not going to change.”
Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who said she didn’t feel obligated to “save the business,” as many in the audience called for, said she found herself in the unlikely position of agreeing with the project, which she said was not much different than the use already on the site.
“I think the visual impacts are less than what the current uses are,” she said.
Gaspar, however, said that while she supported the business, she didn’t believe they met their statutory burden of submitting findings that the project would not adversely impact the neighborhood.
“When I look at the map, I see residential, and that is the challenge I am having,” Gaspar said.
The City Council, as part of its decision, directed staff to continue to work with Radick to find a suitable location.