Redevelopment project draws mixed opinions from Solana Beach residents

By Kristina Houck

Community members voiced mixed views on the proposed redevelopment of a Solana Beach apartment complex during the first of two open houses March 4 at St. James Church.

Built in the early 1970s, Solana Highlands features 194 one- two- and three-bedroom units located at 701 South Nardo Ave. H.G. Fenton Company, which owns and manages the property that sits on more than 13 acres, would like to rebuild the complex. Plans propose 260 units.

“We are trying to create value for the community, as well as create an experience for our customer that isn’t really available in this area right now — certainly not in an apartment building,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of H.G. Fenton Company, which has owned the apartment community since 1998.

The proposed project features 120 one-bedroom and 140 two-bedroom units. All homes will feature updated interiors, storage space, and washers and dryers.

The Craftsman-inspired design of the three neighborhood areas will feature covered porches, stone detailing and tapered columns.

“We went into the Solana Beach community and found this type of architecture out there,” said Project Manager John La Raia. “We think it fits very well into what the community has today and what the community wants to see.”

Gabriel and Alice Granados, who own a home next to the property, were pleased with the project designs.

“From what we saw, it’s a great improvement,” said Gabriel Granados, a Solana Beach native.

“It would make it look beautiful compared to what they look like now,” added his wife, Alice Granados, who has lived in Solana Beach for more than 50 years. “The ones that have been here have been here forever.”

Other nearby residents agreed that the proposed upgrades were pleasing to the eye, but expressed concerns about traffic, parking and public safety.

“I think it’s a beautiful idea, but I think it’s too many people,” said 40-year Solana Beach resident Ginny Gonzalez. “I don’t believe there’s going to be enough parking for the amount of people that they’re planning on putting in here. … That’s way too much traffic for Nardo, and I think the crime rate is going to go up.”

To improve traffic flow, project plans reduce and relocate the current four entrances so that there are just two entrances to the apartment community.

Plans also include 525 parking spaces, an increase from the current 285 parking spaces. In addition, approximately 250 of the 260 units will have a private garage, according to the latest plans.

Other community members inquired about the length of construction.

Still in development, finalized plans have not yet been submitted to the city for review. Currently, there is no formal construction plan or schedule, but developers anticipate construction will be completed in phases.

“I think it’s a good improvement — I like it — but all that noise and all that dust. And we need to really know a length of time,” said Phil Weber, who has lived in Solana Beach for seven years. “I think the neighborhood would rather have it all done in one year than take three or four years.”

Weber was also concerned about the community’s current residents.

“I always have concern about the people,” he added. “What’s going to happen? Are they going to be displaced? Will they be allowed back in? Are the rents going to go way high?”

Veronica Marco has lived in a one-bedroom at Solana Highlands for six years. Excited about the potential revitalization of her apartment community, Marco hopes to continue living at the complex for years to come.

“I’m happy where I am now, but it is old,” she said.

Currently, Marco said she pays $1,400 per month for rent.

“I try not to worry too far ahead of time,” she said. “I don’t want rent to go up, but at the same time, this is a real upgrade. I’d like to stay because I like Solana Beach.”

Currently, rent ranges from $1,545 to $1,650 for one-bedroom units, $1,810 to $1,855 for two-bedroom units, and $2,145 to $2,205 for three-bedroom units, according to Solana Highlands’ website.

La Raia said rent for the upgraded units has not yet been determined, but construction will be done in phases so current residents can relocate to a different building and return to their home once construction is completed.

During the open house, members of the public had the opportunity to ask questions and share comments with H.G. Fenton Company representatives who were stationed at architecture, site plan and landscape, traffic and parking, and sustainability and operations informational booths. A second open house is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 13.

For more information about the project, visit