Solana Beach to feel effects of Del Mar resort

Del Mar will get the high-paying guests and their tax revenue, while Solana Beach will get the traffic, noise and other drawbacks from a 16-acre bluff-top resort proposed just north of Dog Beach at the mouth of the San Dieguito River. 

That’s the opinion of Solana Beach Mayor Mike Nichols on the proposed resort, which will have 250 hotel rooms, 86 privately owned villas, meeting rooms, restaurants and trails. Although the resort will be built on land in Del Mar, the only access to the property would be from the appropriately named Border Avenue, which divides the two cities. 

“We are obviously concerned,” Nichols said Aug. 31. “Del Mar gets all the TOT (transient occupancy tax) and we get all the traffic.” 

The Robert Green Company and Zephyr, two Encinitas-based luxury developers, teamed up to acquire seven contiguous lots from three different families earlier this year for the project. One of the larger lots had recently been approved for five gated estates, an idea that’s been scuttled to make way for the resort. 

The site is essentially a triangle. One side looks out over the ocean, and one side looks over Camino Del Mar, also known as Coast Highway 101, along with the river and the nearby county fairgrounds. But the third side, which will have the resort’s only entrance, faces north along a short, narrow street with apartments and condominiums in Solana Beach. 

Del Mar recently reduced the lanes on southbound Camino Del Mar from two to one near the Solana Beach border, which slows traffic and sometimes causes vehicles to back up into Solana Beach. 

“That lane drop … is already causing problems,” Nichols said. “I can only see (the resort) adding congestion, noise” and other difficulties. 

Nichols said he and other Solana Beach officials have communicated with Del Mar and the developers, and that “they are aware we have issues to work out.” 

Del Mar Councilman Dwight Worden acknowledged the Solana Beach concerns, and said Del Mar and the developers are working to address them. 

“We are committed to working with Solana Beach to make this work out for both cities,” Worden said Aug. 30. 

Environmental studies required for the project will take a close look at traffic, noise, visual effects and other aspects of the proposed construction, Worden said, and the developer is committed to addressing community concerns. 

“It has a long way to go, but it’s off to a good start,” Worden said. 

The Del Mar City Council voted 4-1 in June to allow the developers to file a specific plan with the city, which helps to streamline the approval process for the project. That plan, among other things, will outline new zoning for the property, which is now low-density residential. 

Del Mar Councilman Dave Druker cast the only negative vote, saying that before approving anything the city should take a closer look at the effects such a large project would have on both cities. 

“Traffic is an issue with any project,” said Brad Termini, chief executive officer of Zephyr. 

His company plans to build a roundabout at the hotel entrance and is looking at ways to redesign the intersection at Border Avenue and Camino Del Mar to better handle the flow of additional traffic, he said. 

Both communities will benefit from the development, he said. Its trails and bluff-top park will be open to everyone, which promotes a state Coastal Commission goal of improving public access to the coast. 

About 100 people attended a community meeting Aug. 30 at the Powerhouse Community Center to learn more about the proposed resort. It was the third such public meeting in recent months hosted by the developer to make residents more aware of the project. 

The developer is proposing buildings up to 46 feet above ground level. Most of the parking will be below ground and out of sight. The city of Del Mar owns more than one acre of the southernmost bluff-top property near Dog Beach, and that area will be left undeveloped with public access. 

The developer will need the Del Mar City Council and the Coastal Commission to approve the project’s environmental impact report and then the specific plan before construction can begin. 

Company officials said they hope to have all the approvals by late 2018 or early 2019. 

The Robert Green Company built the Four Seasons Aviara Resort (now the Park Hyatt Aviara) in Carlsbad, the Everly Hotel in Hollywood, and the upscale Pendry Hotel, which opened earlier this year in San Diego’s Gaslamp Qarter. 

Zephyr’s projects include The Park in Bankers Hill and three other luxury condominium buildings in San Diego.

— Phil Diehl is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune