Empty Solana Beach lot to see development after 20 years of vacancy

By Claire Harlin

For more than 20 years, the lot at the southeast corner of Granados Avenue and Lomas Santa Fe Drive has sat empty, and residents have fought off both residential and commercial development attempts there. But the currently proposed plan for the lot, a nearly 4,000-square-foot single family home, is inching toward approval, getting positive feedback on Dec. 12 from neighbors and the Solana Beach City Council. The council will revisit the item on Jan. 9.

Erika Haines, who owns the lot with her husband, Juan Pablo Valdez, said she is eager to live in Solana Beach with their three children, ages 2, 4 and 6, and chocolate Labrador Retriever. When Valdez was asked if he minds stalling the project to address the minor concerns of the council, such as articulation on the north side of the home as well as noise mitigation between the neighbor to the north, Valdez said that waiting a month means nothing in comparison to the lifetime he plans to spend at his new home. The property owners also own the larger empty corner lot next to the proposed home site.

The family chose local architect Jean-Louis Coquereau of JLC Architecture, located at 250 N. Cedros Ave., for his commitment to sustainable designs. The firm is not only a neighbor to Claire’s on Cedros, but it pioneered the restaurant’s design and LEED platinum certification, as well as the designs of many other green commercial and residential projects in San Diego. He said introducing a living wall, consisting of plants, on the north side of the house will be a fairly easy way to mitigate noise and appearance concerns.

“We would be more than open to create additional texture, materials, planting,” he said.

Mayor Mike Nichols said the 40-foot flat wall that is part of Coquereau’s design might set a bad precedent in the community because such a feature doesn’t always work aesthetically. Coquereau said the flat wall is a way to conserve energy and facilitate green heating and cooling of the home.

Scott Hermes, who lives directly north of the property, said he and other neighbors were not supportive of the project at first due to its scale and view obstructions, but those concerns have been mitigated. He said, however, there still needs to be a landscaping solution made that will resolve the potential issue of excessive noise between the two properties. He also thinks that added articulation on the north side of the building will enhance the project.

Neighbor Gary Martin said when the original story poles went up, the project looked like a potential warehouse. He said after speaking personally with Coquereau, the architect accommodated all of his concerns.

“They are really reasonable, sensitive people,” he said, adding that he supports the project, which he described as “creative.” “I want to thank them for that … A lot of architects out there have their ego and you can’t even talk.”

Gerri Retman-Opper said she and her neighbors have been speaking out about the property for more than 20 years, including proposals to change the zoning to commercial. She said the neighbors have also opposed residential designs “that might as well have been commercial,” she said.

The project is still unlike the homes around it in terms of character, however, that’s because of the “edgy design,” she said.

“I’m here to support the design, as long as the concerns noted are addressed,” Retman-Opper said.