Plans to merge two ocean-view restaurant buildings along Cardiff's Restaurant Row to create one mega-sized facility with space for multiple wedding receptions has won unanimous state Coastal Commission approval.
While the Surfrider Foundation sent a letter earlier in the week to the commission expressing some concerns related to rising sea level rates, no one spoke in opposition Thursday, Nov. 9. The plans were approved with only a slight modification, said Dennis Davis, the Coastal Commission analyst who handled the project review.
During their meeting, the coastal commissioners praised the proposed project, but told the developer they wanted to be certain he knew that he was required to preserve a nearby public pathway as part of the project's approval. Rising sea levels in the decades to come may put that pathway, a stone coastal protection revetment and all the buildings along Cardiff's Restaurant Row area at risk -- a concern that Surfrider stressed in its letter to the commission earlier in the week.
"I think it's great that you're going to be moving into this restaurant ... but what I'm a little worried about is how long that revetment is actually going to last with the pathway on it," Commissioner Donne Brownsey told Stephen Goldberg during Thursday's meeting. "You're totally dialed in that you may have to make some major renovations?"
Goldberg, who is one of the managing partners of the Belly Up music venue in Solana Beach, told the commissioners that he knew what he had agreed to.
"It's the condition that I accepted and that I understand," he said. "It's a business decision. I mean, we've owned the restaurant next door for seven years and we've seen some high tides. There's no real issue. I mean, the path remains."
Goldberg is proposing to knock down the walls between his Pacific Coast Grill restaurant and the now-closed Beach House Restaurant to create one 9,388-square-foot building. Doing this will give the Pacific Coast Grill a much-larger kitchen space and make it possible to host private parties while keeping the restaurant open to the general public, he told the Encinitas Planning Commission last spring when he sought city permits for his expansion project.
"The intent is to not be two separate restaurants -- it's an extension of what we have," he told the commissioners.
The 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.
During their meeting in March, the commissioners expressed concerns about the proposed exterior renovations to the two buildings, the plans called for too much stonework and lacked variation. Commissioner Kevin Doyle, who ultimately voted in favor of the plans, said the western face of the buildings -- the side that surfers would see -- was going to look like a "gray slab."
Goldberg said he was proposing stonework on the exterior for practical reasons. He wanted materials that could withstand salty air conditions, he said.
The commissioners also questioned Goldberg about his plans for music at the combined facility, saying they didn't want it to turn into a major music venue like the Belly Up.
Goldberg said he was not planning to host multiple bands at the same time in the expanded facility, but wanted flexibility to have several small stage sites so that music could be performed in different places in the building at different times, depending on what area was rented out on a given night.
-- Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune