Planning board reviews proposed new car wash in Carmel Valley

A rendering of the new Shell station car wash on Carmel Valley Road (the proposed tower is not shown).
A rendering of the new Shell station car wash on Carmel Valley Road (the proposed tower is not shown).

A new car wash and gas station upgrade is planned for the Shell station on Carmel Valley Road, just before the Interstate 5 interchange.

According to project architect Monika Uehlin, the project is in the preliminary stages and they hope to move forward with entitlements with the city soon. The project came before the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board on Jan. 27 for input before the official submittal to the city.

Owned by KA Enterprises, which also owns the Shell station in La Jolla at the corner of Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Parkway, plans for the station improvements include a Bubble Buddies car wash and an expanded Mega Mart convenience store. Several parking spaces will be outfitted with self-vacuum stations.

In 2016, the station became home to San Diego’s first hydrogen fueling station. The hydrogen pump will remain but will be moved to a different part of the site and an additional pump will be added.

The upgrade will also include one new electric vehicle charging station.

The board was concerned about the design’s inclusion of car wash marquee signage on a 33-foot-tall tower above the station. The architects stated that the tower (under the 60 feet height limit for the area) is needed to provide wayfinding for the car wash entrance, however, the board contended that monument signage at the street level might work just as well.

Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White reminded them that the Carmel Valley signage ordinance is different than the rest of the city’s.

“It’s very important to our community to minimize signage,” said Board Vice Chair Barry Schultz.

In their review of the proposed design, the board also was unsure of the gas station’s aesthetics, described by White as “a little cartoon-y” with the car wash brand’s signature bright blue and yellow and the mixture of elevations and materials.

“I’m not excited about it,” agreed board member Allen Kashani. “It’s not a very nice looking area in general but it doesn’t seem commiserate with Carmel Valley.”

The area will see some revitalization as the gas station’s new neighbor on the Old El Camino Real cul-de-sac will be the Costa Azul hotel and restaurant development approved last year. The development will feature a seven-story Element by Westin hotel and a five-story office building with space for two restaurants.

Project architects said they would consider the board’s comments regarding signage, the height of the free-standing tower, architectural materials, planned landscape improvements and perhaps prepare a 3-D rendering that would better show how the station will fit into the site.