Tesla charging station arrives in Torrey Hills, planning board hoped for more notice

The new Tesla charger stations at Torrey Hills Center.
(Karen Billing)

Torrey Hills is now home to a new Tesla “supercharger” electric vehicle charging station. Located in the Torrey Hills Shopping Center on Carmel Mountain Road, the 24 new charging stations will tentatively be available for community use this summer.

The amenity came as a surprise to the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board members, who were unaware of the new installation until it arrived.

At the board’s April 19 meeting, board member Brad Fagan said last year the Torrey Hills HOA was approached by SDG&E asking to grant an easement for a retaining wall for a transformer on the west corner of Vereda Mar De Corozon and Carmel Mountain Road, across the street from the center. The HOA reviewed the documents and approved it because it sounded reasonable.

Fagan said at no point did they know that there were going to be charging stations just the transformer, but 10 months later 24 brand new white new Tesla chargers were placed in the Vons parking lot in between Wells Fargo and Union Bank.

“I see the Tesla station as another example of freezing out community and planning board input,” Chair Kathryn Burton said. “It’s really shocking how ugly it is. It’s like a wall of stations that block off the whole area, you can’t see anything from the street except a wall of stations.”

“This clearly is not neighborhood serving. Twenty-four charging stations is not neighborhood serving for little Torrey Hills,” Burton continued. “This is regional, this is to attract travelers off the freeway, this has nothing to do with Torrey Hills and this neighborhood.”

According to the city, the change to the parking lot was considered consistent with the use and it is a ministerial approval process with the development services department.

With the installation of the transformer, Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) landscaping was also torn up without notice, in the the same way Breakthrough Properties removed mature Torrey Pines trees last year with the construction of the new Torrey View campus down the street. The MAD, funded by an annual assessment on nearby property owners, has since been reimbursed for the removed landscaping.

Burton believes the project should have been noticed to the MAD and the planning board, and the planning board should have had input on something that affects the visuals of the community. “There could be something done to make it less unsightly.”

Some board members agreed that the board should’ve been able to provide input but believed that the stations will be a benefit for the community.

“I actually think it’s pretty good for Torrey Hills,” said board member Margaret Greco, who has noticed there are a lot of Teslas driving around the neighborhood.

“You’re forgetting how many apartments there are right by this station,” Greco added. “The community serves more than homeowners and renters cannot just put a charger in their home, if they don’t have a garage. It sounds very unfair to keep talking about how ‘unsightly’ it is for the homeowners when we have a huge community of renters that also have cars to charge and cannot do it.”

The Torrey Hills Center has changed owners in the last year—Seabreeze Properties sold the center to First Washington Realty, who also recently acquired Del Mar Highlands Town Center. First Washington wasn’t involved with the installation of the stations but Marketing Manager Ashley Da Costa sees how the stations could fit in with the offerings of the center: “Customers can park and charge their vehicle as they shop for groceries, meet a friend for coffee, take their dog to the park, pick up dinner for the family,” she said.

John Jennings, who handles leasing for the center, said First Washington is very hands-on and focused on curb appeal—he believes they will do everything they can to make the property look as nice as it can be for the community.