Concerns linger over Lilian project


Many concerns persist about the Lilian Project, the mixed-use development proposed for the parking lot at the corner of El Tordo and Avenida de Acacias.

“It absolutely seems way out of scale and character with our village,” said Bill Beckman, a member of the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s board of directors.

The most recent version of the project was presented to the association board, art jury and public at a special community meeting Oct. 15.

The proposed project includes 5,498 square feet of ground floor retail space facing El Tordo with seven residential units staggered above and parking below.

No decisions were made at the meeting, but the consultants sought feedback from the individuals who have the power to approve or deny the development.

“We want to get an opinion on how we’re doing,” project architect Allard Jansen said. “Is there a will to move the project forward?”

Board President Lois Jones emphasized that the community desires a project at the site, but that this proposal “still warrants some thought.”

Several board members expressed concerns with the bulk and scale of the project, the heavy emphasis on housing and the developers’ request for variances.

A variance allows applicants to bend some of the Covenant’s development rules if certain conditions are met, such as a significant hardship posed by the lot’s topography.

The developer is requesting permission to build a larger underground parking garage to accommodate 82 spaces, which would provide the required parking for the retail, housing and bank, and replace the 21 spaces the project would eliminate.

Board members and association staff were unsure if the required conditions to grant the variances were met. Director Steve Schillington requested the issue be addressed at a future board meeting.

The above-ground portion of the development is also more square footage than allowed for the lot. The board can grant special approval if other criteria are met, including the development is a Spanish Colonial Revival Lilian Rice-type design that harmonizes with its surroundings.

While board members complimented the design as perfect for La Jolla or Santa Barbara, there was a large, lingering “but.”

“I believe it is not a Lilian Rice-like design because of its complexity and mass,” Beckman said. “The shear magnitude of it, it does not harmonize with its surroundings.”

The applicant team has worked with the art jury and other association committees on this project for about two years. The original plan included 11 residential units with only 1,000 square feet of retail, which was rejected by the art jury and community.

The balance was shifted last year to include eight housing units and 4,000 square feet of retail.

The most recent redesign incorporated suggestions made by the Art Jury in June to break up building mass and enhance the pedestrian retail experience.

Board members thanked the applicant team for being so responsive to suggestions, but indicated more was needed before they, and the community, could support the project.

How the project proceeds from here is up to the property owner. Developer Joe Pinsonneault said there was no more wiggle room, visibly upset with the boards’ comments.

“I’m confused,” Pinsonneault said. “I’m trying to give something to the community and we can’t seem to get to first base.”