Neighbors fear impacts of major construction

Some liken Lilian proposal to Boston’s famous ‘Big Dig’

Some Rancho Santa Fe residents are comparing the Lilian project’s construction process to Boston’s “Big Dig.”

The Big Dig was the unofficial name for the transportation project that tunneled a freeway underground through the heart of the Boston. It took 16 years to build and was finally completed in 2007.

Some residents see a similarity in the Lilian project, a mixed-use retail and residential project in the heart of the village that will involve digging up three levels of underground parking on the corner of El Tordo and Avenida de Acacias.

The project will take about two years to complete, but the excavation project will have the biggest effect on the village with the developers estimating it will take 41 days, 40 trucks a day and five trucks an hour to dig out the hole.

The finished project will have five residential units and 4,070 feet of commercial space, all done in the architectural character of its namesake Lilian Rice.

Drawings by local artist Pat Beck put up between the Village Market and the post office warn that “The Big Dig is coming” and portray the construction with dirt, trucks, noise and water spilling out onto the street.

The drawings draw attention to the fact that the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board plans to make a preliminary decision on the Lilian at their next meeting, Feb. 5 at 9 a.m.

Construction disruption

The last Lilian meeting on Jan. 22 was so well attended that it had to be moved to the Garden Club. About 40 people attended and many expressed concerns about how the construction process would affect the quality of life in the village and possibly cause local businesses to suffer.

The closest businesses to the future Lilian are the Union and Wells Fargo banks and those in the paseo including Paseo Delicias, the Village Cleaners, Plume and Rancho Santa Fe Realty.

“If I stayed in this location, it would put me out of business,” Courtney MacDonald, the owner of stationary store Plume, said.

MacDonald, thinking something would eventually be built on the lot that she said 90 percent of her customers use, already planned to move to Paseo Delicias where Gracie’s used to be. She’ll be moved in by March 1.

She said she is happy to be moving as all the dirt kicked up by construction would destroy her paper products - she always leaves the door to her store open.

Better than a parking lot

Feelings were mixed next door at Rancho Santa Fe Realty, where they said they don’t get a lot of walk-in traffic.

“I’m easygoing,” realtor Dick Tibbetts, who mainly works from home, said. “I’m absolutely looking forward to more parking.”

Realtor Holly Manion said the construction will be inconvenient, cause noise, construction congestion and the loss of parking spaces.

“In my opinion, when the project is complete it will be better to look at a building of classic architecture than an old parking lot,” Manion said.

The owners of the Village Cleaners declined to comment.