Judge denies request to stop construction at Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar area

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

An effort to halt construction at Flower Hill Promenade was blocked in court on Friday, Aug. 5. At a preliminary injunction hearing, San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager denied the work stoppage effort in the “Citizens Against Flower Hill’s Excessive Expansion’s” case against the Via de la Valle mall and its holder Protea Properties.

Another hearing in the case (Citizens Against Flower Hill Excessive Expansion vs. Protea Properties) is set for this Friday at 10 a.m.

Currently, there’s a tug of war over who has authority for the project between the city of San Diego and the California Coastal Commission. In April, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved the renovation project, which includes adding office and retail space, a new Whole Foods Market in place of the UltraStar Cinema, and a four-story parking garage. Last month the Coastal Commission tagged Flower Hill with a stop-work order, contending that the mall is not within the city’s certified Local Coastal Program and that only they could give the go-ahead to a project in that area.

The opposition group’s attorney, Abigail Broedling, said that the Coastal Commission has taken a clear position on its authority to issue a coastal development permit for the project from the beginning, and that the Commission asserted its authority in a letter sent to the city on April 18, one day before the city council hearing. There was no formal reply to the letter as it was sent after the public comment period.

Attorney Suzanne Varco, representing Protea Properties, said that the city’s authority is shown in the North Coast Local Coastal Program land use plan, as well as Map No. C-730-1, a map used since the late 1980s. City Council relied on those maps when they gave approval to the project, Varco said.

Broedling argued that the particular area in the map is not certified and not part of the community plan.

“The city can’t have jurisdiction without an approved map,” Broedling said.

Judge Prager said the question before him was whether the city had adequate information before them to make a determination on the project.

“It appears that they did,” Prager said. “The city decided they did have jurisdiction based on the facts presented to them. Their findings did have some basis, the facts supported their jurisdiction.”