Solana Beach train station project to return to the table after years of rest

By Claire Harlin

Solana Beach and local transit officials will be once again focusing their attention on a possible train station project on the 5.7-acre site at Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Cedros Avenue, an effort that was abandoned several years ago after local and regional officials couldn’t come to a consensus on a vision for the site.

The North County Transit District (NCTD), which owns the long corner lot that extends from Lomas Santa Fe north through the 300-space commuter parking lot, is waiting on approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to reappropriate funding for the project. Solana Beach Mayor Mike Nichols said a request for proposal (RFP) could go out as soon as March to solicit potential contractors for design and construction.

Nichols said the NCTD/Train Station Site Ad-Hoc Committee — which includes Nichols, Councilwoman Lesa Heebner and local resident and developer David Winkler — has been holding meetings with NCTD over the past year to hammer out what they want out of the project. He said Solana Beach officials have been told by NCTD that the ad-hoc committee’s development guidelines, in addition to the city-commissioned drawings by architect John Gish that they support, will be included in the RFP guidelines. Both Gish and Winkler are highly respected for their successful design and development of the Del Mar Plaza.

“We’ve always wanted a project there; we just want it to be appropriate in scale and be a reflection of the community,” Nichols said. “We want to see some life there; we are just trying to hash out what that means.”

Nichols also said there has been talk among Solana Beach officials regarding the unique, dome-like train station building and the possibility that it could be used for a new purpose, such as a restaurant or public space. He said it is currently only used for ticketing, which could possibly be relocated to a lower platform. As is, inconveniences could arise, especially when it rains, because riders would have to rush from the ticketing building downstairs to catch a train.

“It’s just an idea we’d be interested in learning more about,” he said. “That building is underutilized.”

NCTD chief development officer Reed Caldwell said current efforts are only in the planning stages.

“There’s nothing specific yet,” he said. “What we are waiting on is funding … The grant funding would be for a transit amenity that would enhance the train station … We’re probably about 45 days from knowing what the project could look like, but hearing from FTA, that could be one day or one month.”

While Solana Beach officials have said the project is coming to the forefront because funding could potentially be at risk if stakeholders don’t continue showing movement with the project, Caldwell said the project is being addressed now because of timing and staff availability.

The site has been a point of contention in the past, especially leading up to NCTD’s 2008 withdrawal of plans for a project called Cedros Crossing, which included commercial space, parking structures and 141 apartments. Amid pressure to get permits in time for a $6 million grant deadline, Solana Beach leaders in 2008 voted against the project due to concern about its size and neighborhood compatibility.