The Del Mar Planning Commission granted approval to several key environmental components of the Riverview office project, on Sept. 9, including a certification of the project's environmental impact report.
The project now heads to Del Mar's Design Review Board (DRB) for various design-related approvals, most likely within the next two months.
The Del Mar City Council is expected - barring any appeals - to examine only superficial public aspects of the project such as the installation of benches, bicycle racks, newspaper racks and other amenities.
"We're hoping for October," said co-owner/architect Michael Batter of the Design Review Board stop. "It's already been four years in process, so we're just marching ahead as we can."
The Riverview project calls for two, two-story commercial office buildings totaling 23,293 square feet with 83 parking spaces. The project will sit on two dirt vacant lot parcels at the corner of San Dieguito Road and Jimmy Durante Blvd, which have historically been used as pay parking lots during the San Diego County Fair and Del Mar racing season.
Batter says he is unsure of an actual construction start date on the project due to uncertainties over time involved with the design review process and current economic conditions. "But when we finally do get through DRB," he said, "you will hear champagne corks go off."
Batter acknowledged though, the clock would be ticking after final approvals, with a construction start required within two years.
The Planning Commission approvals had been delayed one month for additional hydrology reports in connection with the city's clean water and storm water requirements. The city and the Regional Water Quality Control Board designated the project "high priority" due to its proximity to the San Dieguito Wetlands area.
The project has been under scrutiny for several years due to its location, but Batter says every environmental base has now been covered.
"We've paid for two environmental consultants," he said, "one for the city and one for us. "We have looked at fish, birds and archeological digs. You name it; we've done it.
"After all is said and done after four years," he added, "there are no environmental issues."
Planning Commissioners approved the project's environmental documents with one abstention from Commissioner John Kerridge.
"There is nothing we are looking at this evening that I'm opposed to," said Kerridge of the project's design. "But I still feel the EIR is inadequate. It fails to deal with the emergency aspect of traffic control. I still feel this intersection will see an unnecessary bottleneck in an emergency such as a large fire."
Batter says an extensive traffic plan has been submitted for the project with input from the city's traffic engineer Jack Rydell. The plan will most likely involve the placement of a new traffic signal at the intersection.