Construction is underway on new Torrey View life science campus
Torrey Hills board says they lacked input on the development
Last week Breakthrough Properties shared more details and renderings of Torrey View, a new life science research campus now under construction on the corner of El Camino Real and Carmel Mountain Road in Torrey Hills that is facing some community opposition.
Breakthrough Properties, a life science real estate development company focused on the research and development (R&D) sector, plans to erect a new 442,500-square-foot campus of three four-to-five story buildings and an underground parking garage on the 10-acre site.
“As a company, the heart of what we do is to create high-quality office and lab environments where really exciting companies can further propel scientific discovery and innovation,” said Dan D’Orazi, executive vice president and head of acquisition for Breakthrough.
The first tenants are expected to move in by 2023.
While not required to go to the Torrey Hills Planning Board, Breakthrough made its first formal presentation to the board on Sept. 21, giving community members a better idea of what to expect from the development. Over the last several months, planning board members have expressed their frustration that they were not given an opportunity to weigh in on the project. A community group called Torrey Hills Community Coalition has also been raising funds to fight the development.
“This is the largest development ever proposed for Torrey Hills, yet there has been no public participation in the planning as every other development in Torrey Hills has required,” said Kathryn Burton, Torrey Hills Community Planning Board chair.
Breakthrough acquired the site in October 2020 and the planning group did not find out about the project until early spring 2021. They started a subcommittee in an effort to find out more information, however, grading on the project had already begun by August.
The city’s Development Services Department (DSD) determined that the life science research campus is a ministerial project and does not require a community plan amendment, California Environmental Quality Act review, traffic study, community planning group review or any additional approval from San Diego City Council.
DSD found that the project is consistent with the city general plan and Torrey Hills Community Plan and concluded that R&D uses are permitted in the zone “by right.”
Planning board members and residents have shared their concerns that despite the city’s determination, they do not believe the project is consistent with the community plan, both in its “buildable intensity” and the number of daily traffic trips generated.
They have argued that a development of this size does not fit the community character, as the majority of office buildings along El Camino Real are two stories with some four-story buildings further down the road in the Torrey Reserve Business Park.
During his presentation, D’Orazi said the project was designed and developed with the surrounding uses in mind and to help meet the “overwhelming demand for life science spaces”. He said they worked with the city to closely adhere to the community plan and city’s general plan.
Sharing renderings with the board, he showed how the site will have three R&D buildings terraced down the hillside to minimize the impact on the view corridors, extensive landscaping, pedestrian and bike pathways, and a significant amount of outdoor gathering areas.
The parking will be contained in a partially below-grade, 1,382-space parking garage—there is no above-grade or surface parking. Above the parking garage is a tenant clubhouse with ancillary services for tenants including dining, recreation and fitness areas. Tim Stoll, senior vice president of development for Breakthrough, said the activity deck intends to keep tenants on-site throughout the day.
Residents and board members on the Zoom call shared concerns about equipment noise disturbing the quality of life (citing the “hum and whine” of biotech buildings around San Diego), the height impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods and whether the project was sufficiently parked.
The site is directly adjacent to Torrey Hills’ residential communities of San Rafael, Trilogy, Mont Claire, Torrey Point and Torrey View. Stoll said the buildings were designed to be respectful of those surrounding elevations, with the five-story building positioned toward the back of the terraced site and the four-story buildings positioned toward the front of the site so they should not be higher than the surrounding homes.
D’Orazi said the design complies with the city’s noise ordinance, and mechanical equipment and back-up generators will be shielded visually and acoustically. He also assured that there will be adequate parking –he did not expect any cars to spill out into the neighborhood streets, a concern for Trilogy resident and board member Darren Gretler.
Susie Harborth, executive vice president of business operations for Breakthrough Properties, said as the construction continues ongoing engagement will be important and they want to have an open dialogue with the community to address any concerns. A project website has been set up at torreyviewbybreakthrough.com
Following the meeting, Burton again expressed her frustration that the developers didn’t engage the community ahead of time, only told them what they were building after they began grading.
Additionally, as grading began, several mature Torrey Pines trees were taken down on the property without notification to the Torrey Hills Maintenance Assessment District. Burton has requested an investigation by the city as to how that could have happened as well as a valuation for the trees.
“The planning board does not object to the R&D use. We do object to violating our community plan with four buildings that far exceed the square footage stipulated in the community plan,” said Burton. “This project would be welcome with participation from the Torrey Hills community, and a bulk and scale that does not tower over the single-family homes across the street.”
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