Calls continue for changes in Flower Hill renovation plan

Concerns raised by neighbors, city of Solana Beach

As Flower Hill Promenade's owners seek prompt approval for their renovations plans, the Solana Beach City Council has joined area residents in asking for revisions.

"There are some very serious omissions in this document that was provided as the draft EIR," Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner said recently as the council unanimously approved sending a letter to the city of San Diego on the mall's draft environmental impact report.

Jeffrey Essakow, owner of the mall, has said that he hopes to start construction on the 61,000-square-foot add-on project by early 2011. The plans to "refresh" the 30-year-old center have changed over the last six years, with its scale reduced twice in response to public input.

As it stands now, the plan includes a 35,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market to replace the UltraStar Cinema; 29,000 square feet of new retail and boutique office space; and a four-story, three-floor 393-space parking garage hidden behind Whole Foods.

There will be a new public courtyard where the old center meets the new center — a meeting spot with tables and a fountain.

San Diego city officials are requiring that the developer move the entrance to Flower Hill Drive off San Andres to the north, from in front of the Taste of Thai restaurant to behind it. A left-turn pocket onto Flower Hill Drive would also be added.

Solana Beach officials voted on April 14 to ask San Diego City officials to address unanswered questions on land use, traffic, parking and the effects of the Del Mar Fairgrounds master plan and the proposed Interstate-5 expansion in a revised and re-circulated draft EIR.

Solana Beach, which borders the mall on the north side, provides Flower Hill's sewer and emergency services. Solana Beach officials will submit a matrix outlining 31 specific issues, including deficiencies in the draft EIR's traffic counts and conclusions, the proposal's effects on lighting, noise, pollution, and its bulk and scale being incompatible with the surrounding community.

While the project's size and increased traffic continue concern some neighbors who spoke at a Carmel Valley Community Planning Group meeting on April 13, nearly all of the center's neighbors strongly oppose the realignment of Flower Hill Drive behind the center. Not even the Flower Hill group is in favor of the realignment.

Re-aligning the road would also put it directly across from the entrance to Armstrong Garden Center and Chase Bank.

"The left turn pocket will add a traffic nightmare for my tenants," said Anne Fletcher, whose family owns the Chase center.

She said it would be very difficult for people to get in and out of the center, and proposed that Flower Hill be required to widen the road at that intersection.

The change is most offensive to residents of Spindrift, whose community, located behind the shopping center, is accessed from Flower Hill Road.

Steve Wilmore, a 15-year Spindrift resident, said realigning the road would make it too tight a drive and decrease their line of sight for traffic traveling at high speeds down San Andres.



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