New owner to bring changes to Pacific Highlands Ranch project in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

Changes are in store for the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch project as a sale to new owner Coast Income Properties is nearly complete. The planned mixed-use development on Carmel Valley Road, across from Canyon Crest Academy, will see a new configuration of buildings, more residential units and the proposed movie theater has been removed from the plans.

Tom Blake, Coast Income Properties founder and president, appeared before the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board on Oct. 25 as his company is seeking the planning board’s approval on a substantial conformance review, which is a determination that the new project is in conformance with a previously approved permit.

The Village at PHR was approved by the city in 2010 for 294 residential units, 195,000 square feet of retail and 2,189 parking spaces, generating 16,000 average daily trips (ADT).

The site also includes space reserved for a future city library and two acres of village community green.

Blake aims to adapt that plan so it “makes sense”— adding 105 to 110 residential units, deleting 40,000 to 45,0000 square feet of retail mostly by removing the theater, reducing the number of parking spaces and reducing the ADT by 20 percent.

Blake said they want to put a rush on the plans and get something built for the community as soon as they can.

“I’ve wanted to purchase this for years and got very serious about it 18 months ago,” Blake said. “We’re pretty excited about this project. I think it’s one of the best pieces of real estate in San Diego and we want to create something the community supports, something the community uses and something that we can be proud that we did at the end of the day.”

Blake said he has already put out some feelers to potential retail tenants and while he didn’t want to name names, he said those interested are a “tremendous draw.”

“We can get started on the retail right away, that’s what’s driving the rush,” Blake said.

Blake said the main problem they had with the Village plan was the cinema. He said the use is too expensive to build, it generates a lot of trips and requires intensive parking. He said the plan was for it to be a boutique cinema and now that the similar Cinepolis has opened at Del Mar Highlands, there is no longer a need for it.

The residential units will be transferred in from neighboring sites that already have homes approved by the city. Coast Income is purchasing the two-acre “jelly bean” parcel on Carmel Valley Road, which was approved for 60 units. Coast Income will build only eight of those 60 units on the jelly bean and move the remaining 52 to the Village.

They are also purchasing a neighboring Taylor Morrison development and bringing 57 of its excess units to the Village.

The design and architecture will remain as was originally proposed and buildings will be a mix of one to six stories. The new plans reflect a 5-foot height increase over what was approved.

Also gone from the plans is the proposed seven-story parking garage that included two subterranean levels. Blake said the garage will be much smaller in scale, only three levels with none underground.

Blake said they are very excited about the opportunities for the open space portion of the Village and hope to get input from the board and the public on what kind of amenities they would like.

One change that some board members and audience members were unsure about is alterations to the proposed grocery store. Under the new plans, the 4,300-square-foot building tentatively tagged for a grocery store on the corner of Carmel Valley Road and Del Mar Heights Road has been split into two buildings, one intended for a smaller boutique market, like a Trader Joe’s.

“I’m concerned at the loss of the grocery store because it forces everyone in Pacific Highlands Ranch to continue to drive to Carmel Valley and PHR is supposed to be self-contained,” said resident Ken Farinksy.

Board members Christian Clews and Debbie Lokanc also expressed their disappointment that the grocery store was removed.

Board member Manjeet Ranu reminded the board that Pardee Homes never committed to a grocery store and a restriction was never put into the project’s permit.

Resident Gary Levitt, also a commercial property developer, said that the market has changed — had the project been built five years ago a grocery store would definitely make sense but that is no longer the case.

“The Targets and Walmarts are eating the lunch of the standard supermarket today,” Levitt said.

The planning board will review details of Coast Income Properties’ substantial conformance review at an upcoming regional issues subcommittee meeting, possibly on Nov. 7 before they go dark for the holidays.