Lilian project OK’d despite concerns

Concerns about the Lilian project’s construction process did not matter in the end when the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board approved the proposal 5-2.

Board members said they were concerned with whether or not the project fit and harmonized with the village character and in the end, the majority believed it did.

The board voted in front of a crowd of around 50 neighbors at the Garden Club on Thursday, Feb. 5.

“Overall I think it is an upgrade over a parking lot,” Tim Sullivan, board vice president, said. “The Art Jury approved it and their standards are very, very high. Getting anything by the Art Jury is difficult.”

Board President Lois Jones and member Steve Shillington both voted to deny the application.

While Jones asked the board and audience to refrain from commenting on the construction process, Shillington said he couldn’t resist.

“I won’t get into the gory details of construction,” Shillington said. “But consider the link between construction process and the scope of this project, they are intertwined.”

Jones and Shillington both noted that their purpose on the board is to protect and preserve the history of the village - what Jones called its soul.

“The project complies but does it harmonize?” Jones asked. “The bulk and scale does not meet the criteria written in the Covenant.”

In voting to approve the Lilian, board member Bill Beckman said the architecture and bulk of the project were appropriate to the village.

“Once we get over the newness of it, I think the majority will find it’s a beautiful and positive addition to the village,” Beckman said.

Covenant culture

The 41,211-square-foot Lilian, planned for the corner El Tordo and Avenida de Acacias, includes five residential units, 4,070-square-feet of commercial space and a three-level underground parking garage.

Lilian architect Allard Jansen said that the use fits exactly with what was written in the Covenant - retail use, office space and residential dwellings. He said the Covenant recognized that there would be newness and change and gave guidelines for those changes.

After years of working with the Art Jury, the Lilian complies with codes and design guidelines and requires no variances.

Jansen mused on what makes the village such an experience and he said the Lilian offers all of those components. The Lilian has compact buildings with simple architectural details, designed to look like it’s been there forever. He said the Lilian would have shops at the sidewalk, paseos and plazas that encourage “accidental encounter.”

Resident Peter Janopaul said he supported the project although he knew the “birthing process” would be problematic. Janopaul said it is just what they will have to bear to have “beautiful things in this community.”

Art Jury member Jack Queen said people should be more open-minded, He said the parking lot the Lilian would replace is always half-full and most people can’t park there anyway because spots are reserved.

Even though he hates just as much as anyone circling the block to get a cup of coffee, Queen said the Lilian will be a positive thing for the community.

Parking pains

Opponents of the project said they worried about increased traffic, lack of parking and the precedent they would be setting to allow a building of that size and a parking garage into the village.

“Once you give away the farm you can never get it back,” resident Bill Schlosser said.

Schlosser said the project was Lilian in name only, that it was too big and overbuilt.

There was still a big concern about the parking situation. The Lilian will adequately park its use, providing 62 spaces. There will be an 11-space deficit from what the parking lot provided before, but the project is at a surplus and the spaces aren’t required by code.

Business owner Bill McNally said he already hears customers saying they can’t find parking.

“Retail is really hanging on by a thread in this town,” McNally said, who noted it will soon be just banks and real estate. “I’m afraid people would start failing.”

Resident Marion Dodson disagreed.

“Don’t blame the parking problem that has existed for 25 years on a project that’s providing its own parking,” Dodson said.

Dodson saw the Lilian as having a more positive effect on the retail situation - she said she thinks it will bring the village new life.