Torrey Hills board approves new Torrey View easements

The Torrey View development under construction in Torrey Hills.
(Karen Billing)

The Torrey Hills Community Planning board approved new easement vacations for Torrey View, the life science research campus now under construction in Torrey Hills.

Breakthrough Properties will now take over the management of the public right-of-way from the city, creating a new maintenance assessment district area on El Camino Real and Carmel Mountain Road, plus an additional setback of 10 feet.

With the easement vacation, the existing Torrey Hills marquee sign on the corner will be protected, as will the remaining Torrey pine trees—49 new Torrey pines trees will also be planted throughout the project.

“(The trees) are very important to us, so I’m very happy to hear that they are protected in this easement vacation,” said Chair Kathryn Burton at the board’s Feb. 21 meeting.

Board member Paula Abney questioned whether Breakthrough would be negotiable on the future tree planting in the new easements, particularly regarding plans to plant London plane trees instead of Western sycamores. Abney said the London plane is a beautiful tree but as they are about 75 feet high—the base of trunk is six feet across which is wider than the four-foot opening where the trees will be planted: “It’s an awesome tree it just won’t fit there,” Abney said.

Sarah Williams, senior director at Breakthrough, took the planning board’s suggestion to the landscape architect to look at other trees available from the city’s palette. Other trees that could work would be the Tipuana tipu, a large tree already in use on street medians, or the Chinese elm, a deciduous tree that provides “a great fall color”. Board member Brad Fagan noted that it would be nice to have non-deciduous trees in front of the buildings to provide more consistent screening.

Breakthrough Properties is aiming for completion of Torrey View by late 2023. The project includes three four-to-five-story buildings, an underground parking garage and a tenant-serving clubhouse. There are three entrances to the site and the plan is for a proposed new traffic signal to create a median opening in front of the main entrance, allowing for a left turn for those heading north on El Camino Real.

Last year, the planning board stated its opposition to the light, 565 feet away from the Carmel Mountain Road and El Camino Real intersection that already faces daily traffic challenges.

Breda Nicolas, a board member of the San Rafael Homeowners Association, the development directly across the street, said residents are concerned about the implications of the proposed new signal and their ability to enter and exit their community. She said the existing u-turn on El Camino Real is the only way San Rafael residents access local schools, the community center, parks, shopping center and Interstate 5—if even half of the vehicles in the 1,300-car parking garage turn left into Breakthrough every morning, it will effect the residents in her community.

The city continues to review the plans for the proposed signal and it has not yet been approved.

“We want the city to put our interests into the equation and we want to ensure that this happens,” Nicolas said.