A proposal to combine two ocean-view buildings along south Cardiff's Restaurant Row and create one super-sized facility with space for multiple wedding receptions has won its first set of permit approvals.
The Encinitas Planning Commission voted 3-1, with Commission Chairman Glenn O'Grady opposed and Commissioner Al Apuzzo absent, to grant the project a design review permit and a minor-use permit. Next, it's on to the state Coastal Commission.
Pacific Coast Grill owner Stephen Goldberg, who is one of the managing partners of the Belly Up music venue in Solana Beach, is proposing to knock out the walls between his restaurant and the now-closed Beach House Restaurant and merge the two L-shaped facilities, creating one 9,388-square-foot building.
"The intent is to not be two separate restaurants -- it's an extension of what we have," he told the commissioners last week.
Combining the two buildings into one would give Pacific Coast Grill a much-larger kitchen space and would make it possible to host private party events while keeping the restaurant open to the general public, he said.
Goldberg, who has owned Pacific Coast Grill for six years, said it has become a community gathering place to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean while having a drink and a bite to eat, and regular patrons aren't happy when he closes the restaurant to host private events.
Commissioners had many questions for Goldberg about the renovation plans for the combined building's exterior. They also raised concerns about the interior plans, noting that they allowed up to five musicians to perform at three different locations.
"My biggest worry is this becomes the Belly Up at the beach," Commissioner Bruce Ehlers said.
"One Belly Up is enough," Goldberg responded amid general laughter.
Goldberg said that he didn't intend to host multiple bands at the same time in the new facility, he just wanted the flexibility to offer music in different locations depending on what's rented out for private parties.
Commissioner Jody Hubbard noted that Goldberg will be required under the terms of his permits to only offer music until 10 p.m. and given that cutoff time it's not going to morph into a night club.
The issue that divided the commissioners was the proposed exterior renovation plans. O'Grady said he couldn't vote to issue the design permit because in his view the proposed exterior remodel lacked variation in materials, contained far too much stonework and didn't blend the two buildings together very well.
"I would like to see some stucco," he said.
Though Commissioner Kevin Doyle ultimately voted in favor of issuing the permits, he said he didn't care for the western face of the combined structure -- the side that surfers would see. When they're floating out on their boards, all they're going to see is a "gray slab," he said.
Before he came to the meeting, Doyle produced a redesign option and he showed it to his fellow commissioners during the March 15 meeting. He didn't win any converts, though. Both Ehlers and Hubbard said they liked design produced by Goldberg's architect, Bart Smith. Hubbard said Smith has designed something that the restaurant's 30- and 40-year-old customers will want to see.
Goldberg said there was one key factor in the design — he wanted materials that could withstand salty air conditions.
"It's built to last," he said, describing why he was proposing to use so much stone material on the exterior.
--Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune.