Carmel Valley board opposes new restaurant development

A rendering of the back of the proposed restaurant building by the DoubleTree in Carmel Valley.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board recently rejected plans for Center Parkway Center, a proposed new restaurant project off El Camino Real.

Developer Baldwin & Sons is proposing a 6,000-square-foot building that will house three fast-casual restaurants, next to the DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego-Del Mar and adjacent to SR-56. At its Oct. 22 meeting, the planning board voted down a motion to approve the project 3-6 as the board sought more articulation and landscape screening on the facade of the building that faces outward to the freeway.

“I’m not going to support it because I think it’s our duty to make sure what is built in our community is a good design,” Chair Frisco White said, adding they have always asked developers to create projects that enhance the community both visually and functionally.

According to Eric Johnston of Baldwin & Sons, the site was originally approved in the mid to late 1980s for restaurant use but it was never developed—since then it has been used as parking lot space for the DoubleTree.

“The hotel has had the great advantage over the last 30 years to be able to park on this site without any issue because we hadn’t developed the site yet but we are at the point where we’re ready to develop,” Johnston said, noting there will still be enough parking on the site.

The restaurant building is proposed for the parking lot adjacent to the DoubleTree and the SR-56.

The restaurants will all be dine-in restaurants not drive-thru or fast food establishments. Each of the three restaurants will have outdoor patio space.

The project was initially reviewed by the board in September and at that time the board expressed its concerns about the view of the project from the freeway, which was compared to a “shoebox.” Johnston returned on Oct. 22 showing some trees and bushes planted on the slope and a small trellis, but said no further enhancements of the building were planned.

Board member Danielle McCallion said it was unfortunate that the developer did not take their recommendations into consideration. “It’s a small project and I think they could’ve enhanced it better,” agreed board member Debbie Lokanc.

The neighboring DoubleTree Hotel also opposes the development.

Julie Hamilton, a land use attorney speaking on behalf of the DoubleTree, said they still have a number of issues with the project including the increased traffic and the aesthetics—she said no efforts have been made to enhance the property with the minimal design.

“The design looks like a strip mall,” Hamilton said. “The design is not attractive, it isn’t appropriate for Carmel Valley and the DoubleTree really does not support this project.”

At the meeting, board Vice Chair Barry Schultz and members Ken Farinsky and Dan Curran all voted in support of the project.

Curran said his office is nearby and he believes that the restaurant spaces would be an improvement over the existing parking lot.

“This is a commercial center with a standard-issue DoubleTree Hotel and an office building next door and I think we’re kind of putting these guys through the ringer a little bit,” Curran said. “It’s hard to dress up back-of-house on a commercial building.”

Farinsky said while he would much rather see something interesting architecturally there, he agreed with Johnston that people will be driving by fast on the freeway and most will not see the building while making the exit on El Camino Real.

The project will now continue on in the city review process for a site development and coastal development permit.