Upscale auto showroom, high-end restaurant may pull in to Torrey Reserve complex in Carmel Valley

A new Rolls-Royce showroom could be bringing a little luxury to Torrey Hills’ Torrey Reserve business complex.

Representatives from American Assets, owner of Torrey Reserve, and high-end car dealer O’Gara Coach made a presentation to the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board on Sept. 15 and heard favorable feedback from the board — as well as concerns from some neighboring residents.

According to Jim Durfy, vice president of office properties with American Assets Trust, they will be seeking a zoning change from commercial visitor (CV) to commercial residential (CR), which would allow for the car dealership use. O’Gara Coach would plan to create a Rolls-Royce showroom, a Maserati or similar brand showroom, and a high-end restaurant on the Torrey Reserve site.

O’Gara Coach is the No. 1 luxury exotic retailer in the world, according to Paul Radford, general manager of their La Jolla location.

“We’re a very hands-on, warm, experiential company,” Radford said. “The volumes are very low to what you would associate with a car dealership.”

The potential dealerships could take up the 10,000-square-foot bottom floors of two new two-story buildings on the west side of El Camino Real, near the old California Bank and Trust building.

The two dealerships would be considered boutique showrooms, and there would be no repair or maintenance facilities or gas pumps — just a showroom for “luxury high-end automobiles.”

O’Gara Coach operates several successful showrooms in addition to its La Jolla location, which the company took over from Symbolic Motors earlier in the year. O’Gara Coach’s Beverly Hills showroom is also right in the middle of a residential neighborhood selling Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, Bugattis, Aston Martins and Bentleys. The showroom is the No. 1 Aston Martin dealership in the country, and the O’Gara Coach Westlake location is the No. 1 Maserati showroom in the country.

Radford said Maserati is their highest-volume brand — if the showroom were for Bugatti, it would be much lower, typically five to six cars sold annually. A good month for the Rolls-Royce showroom is about eight to 10 cars sold a month, he said.

Tim Rose, manager of Rolls-Royce La Jolla, said additional traffic to the area will not be a drawback because of the low volume. He said he even frequently takes cars to customer’s homes rather than having customers come to the showroom.

The operating hours would be fewer than a conventional dealership, and not a lot of parking would be required, although there is a two-level underground parking garage on site that would accommodate the dealerships and the restaurant.

Radford said they like the Torrey Hills location because of its accessibility to freeways and proximity to their customer base in La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe, and the service center they own in Sorrento Valley.

Durfy said according to the “heat map” of $200,000 cars sold in the area, 60 percent were sold to customers six miles north of the Torrey Hills location and 40 percent from the La Jolla area.

Neighbors in attendance expressed their concerns mainly with American Assets in their development of Torrey Reserve. They said they have been negatively affected by too-tall light poles that shine into their homes, the parking lot solar panels, and buildings that were supposed to be set back further from the road with more landscaping.

“Dealing with American Assets has not been the best, perhaps the worst,” said resident John Dean.

“We worked very hard with American Assets on the Arroyo Sorrento Road corner,” resident Anne Harvey said. “I don’t know where all the solar panels came from, but they promised to lower the light poles and that still hasn’t happened. I would appreciate if American Assets would follow through with that before they request a zoning change.”

Dean also had concerns about the noise of the cars coming from the site, as the neighborhood already deals with the roar of race cars coming from Sorrento Valley car facilities and speeding down Sorrento Valley Boulevard, Carmel Mountain Road and El Camino Real.

Radford assured Dean that the people who purchase $250,000 to $500,000 cars aren’t the same type of demographic that will be racing on residential streets. Radford said test- drive routes for the showroom also must be submitted to the city and approved as part of the planning process.

Dean and other residents said they also worried about the signage of the showrooms, but Radford said it would be “elegant and understated” and less “gorillas and neon signs.”

Chair Kathryn Burton advised American Assets to consider and respect the concerns from the neighbors, but said overall she liked the project, especially the low traffic volume it would generate. She and other board members said they would love to help provide input on what kind of restaurant goes into the complex — several votes were for an Italian place.

“We would love to be a part of this community that we feel has the same quality and standards as we do,” Rose said. “(Torrey Hills) is a really good fit for who we are as a company … I can tell you with full assurance and integrity that it would be a privilege to join your community, and you will enjoy having us as neighbors.”