ENCINITAS — On Wednesday, Aug. 19, the City of Encinitas Planning Department will recommend City Council approve an appeal by the developer of a timeshare hotel at Surfer’s Point, despite the Planning Commission having unanimously voted against the developer’s 15-year-old permits.
The Surfer’s Point timeshare hotel would be built at the intersection of Highway 101 and La Costa Avenue and host 26 units. Currently, the luxury “Encinitas Beach Hotel” is also under construction at the same intersection.
On June 18, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny approval for the timeshare hotel, as the permits pulled by the developer are 15 years old and, in the Planning Commission’s opinion, void and in need of replacement.
The developer has appealed the Planning Commission’s decision, bringing the issue to the City Council, and in this rare instance, the Planning Commission and City Planning Department disagree.
The City Planning Department recommends the City Council, “approve the [developer’s] appeal, set aside the decision of the Planning Commission, and adopt [a resolution] approving the project.”
The two entities’ disagreements center on the building permits themselves.
In a public letter to Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and the City Council, Kevin Doyle, a current member of the Planning Commission, expanded upon the commission’s decision as well as the history of the development itself.
In 2002, the Planning Commission first reviewed the development’s draft EIR, objecting to numerous aspects of construction. In 2005, however, a newly elected Planning Commission approved the permits.
The Coastal Commission, itself, appealed the Coastal Development Permits, requesting changes that were eventually implemented and resulting in a permit issued in 2007. However, by 2009, the project went dormant and the Coastal Development Permit expired.
In 2017, the developers sought to restart the project with the city, returning to the Planning Commission in June 2019. The project was continued “off calendar” so the plans could be reworked. However, when the city and developer presented the plan on June 18, 2020, the Planning Commission still voted unanimously against the expired permits.
“A year later, the applicant returned to the Commission and we found none of our recommendations were implemented,” Doyle writes.
According to Doyle, the developer argued the Design Review permit, approved in 2005, was still valid, however, “based on our reading of our own Municipal Code, [we] ruled that this was not the case and that the Design Review permit was expired. [Furthermore,] we only addressed the Design Review permit. We could have also turned our attention to the Major Use permit and the Coastal Development permit, which also have clear direction on the expiration.”
The Coast News reached out to the City of Encinitas Planning Department for further comment but did not receive a response.
According to Doyle, the Planning Department is recommending the City Council approve the permitting appeal based on technical language in the city’s approval process stating, “at any time after two years from the date of [a permit’s] approval … the City may require a noticed public hearing to be scheduled before the authorized agency to determine if there has been demonstrated a good faith intent to proceed in reliance on this approval.”
According to Doyle, “[Planning Department] staff have argued that the phrase, ‘the City may require a noticed public hearing’ should be interpreted to mean that unless a hearing is held to invalidate an application, then all permits associated with the application will never expire.”
“Times change,” Doyle writes, disagreeing with the Planning Department. “The needs of our City change along with it. Permits cannot and should not last forever — they should be allowed to expire as our Municipal Code demands.”
Among the issues the Planning Commission had with the Design Review permit, beyond its expiration, was the direction in which the physical structure faced as well as the need for an updated EIR.
“The ‘back’ of the project, which consists of mostly large, flat wall planes, faces South East,” writes Doyle. “It’s as if this project has turned its back on our town. It’s not a pretty site. All of our sunset views in this sensitive view corridor will be blocked forever.”
Bruce Ehlers, chairman of the Planning Commission, also spoke to The Coast News about the need for a new set of permits including a fresh Environmental Impact Report, underlining the need for a new traffic report as well as accommodations for increased sea rise on Batiquitos Lagoon, among other issues.
On Aug. 19, the City Council will hear the developer’s appeal, the Planning Department’s recommendation, and the Planning Commission’s defense, voting on how to proceed. If the council grants the appeal, construction may begin.
Public records of the Surfer’s Point timeshare hotel permits, the Planning Department’s staff report, and the developer’s appeal are available online as a part of the City Council’s Aug. 19 agenda.