ENCINITAS — An online petition to stop the redevelopment of Captain Keno’s and long-shuttered Portofino Beach Inn in Leucadia is nearing 1,000 signatures after residents largely panned the developer’s plans on social media.
Earlier this month, developer Adam Robinson, of RAF Pacifica Group, shared renderings with The Coast News of his early plans for redevelopment. The Coast News shared one of several renderings depicting the rear of the building facing the alley on Instagram.
However, since the renderings were made public, a number of locals have expressed their displeasure with the designs on social media.
Robinson, an Encinitas resident, previously told The Coast News he is open to working with residents to address their concerns with the project. In comments about the backlash online, Robinson said the image shared on social media is of the back of the project which he claims has hurt his cause.
While only one image was shared on The Coast News’ social media post, three renderings, including two depicting the front of the project facing Coast Highway 101, were shared in the original story online.
The online petition started by a user named “Encinitas Community” states the proposed development will not be welcomed by locals.
“We are trying to show SmithGroup as the developer and Adam Robinson who is spearheading the operation that it would only cause outrage if they do not reconsider,” the petition reads.
As part of the city’s development process, the project will participate in a public Citizen Participation Program, a forum where residents can openly provide feedback to developers. Robinson previously told The Coast News he planned to host the forum within the next two months.
Until then, the feedback on social media has been largely negative.
Instagram user Lauren Philips made her feelings clear: “There goes the charm that used to be my home town.”
Several on social media have called for Captain Keno’s to be classified as a historic monument. The building has been in Encinitas for longer than the city has been incorporated. Former owner Gerry Sova opened Captain Keno’s in 1966 after purchasing the site for $100,000 with his personal keno winnings.
Sova sold the property and his liquor license along with the license to Captain Keno’s name to Robinson last year. The new development project for the restaurant is “Captain.”
“To think two years ago my boys would visit Keno’s as part of Encinitas landmarks as the oldest restaurant in town still running,” Isabelle Baril wrote on Instagram.
Local resident Ryder England called for residents to come together to submit a design better suited for Encinitas.
“Accepting Keno’s is going down is hard enough but we all want something we can drive by and not scoff at,” Ryder wrote. “It’s not too late to set a community-driven meeting and let the people that made this town so special help design. I think you can afford it, this couldn’t have cost that much.”
Most of those who have expressed their opposition to the design have stated in one way or another that the design lacks the feel and charm of Encinitas. Residents of the community of Leucadia, in particular, have long led the charge to keep their town “Leucadia funky.”
“Community support and preservation of what makes this town so special, is vital and of high priority here in Leucadia. Redevelopment can look like mindfully improving the beauty that already exists, not destroying it and replacing it with buildings void of meaning,” Henny Rau, a local resident wrote.
Robinson responded to the wave of negative feedback by reaffirming his commitment to work closely with locals on the project moving forward.
“As a local developer with offices in Encinitas, RPG is absolutely committed to working with the community and maximizing opportunities for citizens’ input on our proposed project, ‘Captain,'” Robinson wrote The Coast News. “When Gerry Sova approached us about acquiring Keno’s, we were proud to be considered. Keno’s is a fixture in Encinitas and we will make sure its legacy remains so residents can continue to enjoy their favorite gathering place. As such, RPG is excited to announce we will be incorporating some of the much-loved Keno’s specials in our bar and restaurant.
“We look forward to partnering with the community to help us create a sustainable, unique project which will create attainable housing for families, office space for our local businesses and retail opportunities – some will be offered at a reduced rent rate for small businesses and local startups. Once we remove the rundown Portofino hotel and replace it with a vibrant project, it will be a safe and fun area for the citizens of Encinitas to work, play, visit and shop for generations to come.”