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Gas station decision ‘disappointing’ attorney says

ENCINITAS — A prominent attorney representing the owners of a Leucadia gas station said his clients were “frustrated and disappointed” with the City Council’s denial of their proposed renovation of a Shell gas station off of Leucadia Boulevard and Interstate 5, but hadn’t decided on whether to sue the city over the vote.

Marco Gonzalez, an environmental attorney who has represented developers in the past against the city, said he believed the council’s decision was politically motivated, and not based on facts.

“It was disappointing, I understand it was a difficult decision, but the council really failed to make a decision based on the evidence,” Gonzalez said. “It was a purely political decision based on the misconceptions of loud, screaming neighbors.”

That project, proposed by S&L Oil, Inc., called for the demolition of the current gas station and auto mechanic shop on the corner of Leucadia Boulevard and Orpheus Avenue, and the construction of a new gas station, mini-mart and self service car wash.

Denied by the Planning Commission, the project has been the source of community uproar since the planning commission first heard it in November, during a meeting that stretched past midnight.

A number of people spoke at the meeting, including a number of prominent Leucadia residents who decried the project’s potential for increased noise and traffic.

“Because it is a noisy intersection it is all the more reason not to add to the problem,” Kathleen Lees said. “I really think the car wash is a bad idea.”

Gonzalez said that the owner had spent tens of thousands of dollars on the project and went to great lengths to make the project amenable to his neighbors, including proposing a landscaping plan that would have been unique for a gas station and moving the car wash away from the closest residences.

“The standard that the planning commission and the neighbors put out was unrealistic to expect of a gas station at a freeway intersection,” Gonzalez said. “Yet this applicant was willing to modify the architecture, enhance storm water controls and provide amenities and really see to beautify a not particularly beautiful site.

Gonzalez said he believes that residents in the community are more concerned with the cumulative changes that have occurred in Leucadia in recent years that have led to an overall increase in traffic and noise and a gradual transformation of the once-sleepy surf enclave.

“I think they are trying to hold on to their vision of what Leucadia used to be,” Gonzalez said. “So much was absurd about the rhetoric and hyperbole that came out of the meeting. They are opposed to anything that amounts to change or progress, and I think the NIMBYs win on this round.”

Short of re-filing the project and starting over from the departmental level, the owners have exhausted their local remedies, which leaves a lawsuit as their last potential manner of redressing the city’s decision.

While it is a possibility, Gonzalez said no decision had been made as of yet to pursue legal measures against the city.

Most recently, Gonzalez represented the developer of the proposed Desert Rose subdivision in Olivenhain, which prevailed in a lawsuit filed by residents opposed to the project when the appeals court overturned the trial court’s decision.

But Gonzalez hinted that the owners might let the decision stand.

“There is a strong likelihood that you will be staring at the same dilapidated structure for the foreseeable future, because there is no incentive to go back through the planning process that could result in denial with no real reason given,” Gonzalez said. “The site is making money, and they have no obligation to renovate. Why would you do something good for a community that treats you like that?”