Carmel Valley residents weigh in on proposed changes to Pacific Highlands Ranch Village Center

By Karen Billing

“We want a full grocery store” was a common refrain at a recent community meeting about the proposed changes to the Pacific Highlands Ranch Village Center. New owner Coast Income Properties’ plans for a specialty/boutique market and a drug store instead of a full grocery store have some neighbors dissatisfied with the planned mixed-use center on Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley roads, next to Canyon Crest Academy.

Some neighbors said they didn’t mind the missing grocery store and were complimentary of the new proposal’s “Rancho Santa Fe”-style feel and expressed excitement about proposed tenants, the Village’s Main Street and gathering places.

The meeting was well-attended by Coast Income Properties representatives, as well as about 50 neighbors from Airoso, the community on Village Center Loop Road, as well as some residents from Arabella across from the proposed Village Center off Carmel Valley Road.

The PHR Village Center plans were approved by the city in 2010, with 219 residential units and 195,000 square feet of retail, including a movie theater. Coast Income would like to eliminate the movie theater, scale down to 145,000 square feet of retail, and add 110 to 115 more residential units for a total of about 330 residential units, including 86 affordable housing units.

The design and architecture will remain as was originally proposed and buildings will be a mix of one to six stories. The new plans reflect a five-foot height increase over what was approved.

“We’re very excited about it. We love the property and it’s a great, great neighborhood,” said Tom Blake, founder and president of Coast Income Properties.

The altered plans have not been submitted to the city yet for the substantial conformance review process—the developers are first going through the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, the matter will possibly be on the Dec. 12 regional issues subcommittee agenda.

The height increase is one of the changes that hasn’t been embraced by the neighbors present. They like the “openness” of their community, the skyline with views of the mountains and they said six story heights would really change the character of the area.

“We’re hearing (the feedback) on the six stories,” said Blake. “We probably need to address that.”

The other big issue that neighbors seem to have with the changes to the plan is the loss of a full-sized grocery store.

Blake plans to split the 43,000-square-foot building many neighbors had hoped would be a full size grocery store into two buildings. The two buildings (one about 10-15,000 square feet, the other about 15-20,000 square feet) would be a boutique or specialty grocery store and the other would likely be a drug store.

Residents wondered what the benefit was of downsizing the grocery store and pointed out if they had a full-scale grocery store, they wouldn’t need the separate drug store.

One local resident in attendance said that his concern is that if the developers continue to “peel back” on the retail and commercial element, with all the new homes in the area, it’s just going to create a situation where residents of PHR are still going to Del Mar Highlands, Piazza Carmel, Del Mar, Camino Del Sur or Solana Beach to access the goods and services they need.

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