Developer gets OK to tell ‘story’ a different way at Solana Highlands

Solana Highlands rendering
Solana Highlands rendering
( / Courtesy photo)

The proposed redevelopment of Solana Highlands moved one step forward May 6 when the Solana Beach City Council unanimously approved a story pole plan for the project.

Rather than continue to seek a waiver for installing about 30 percent of the story poles required for the complete remodel of the apartment complex, the developers presented a new proposal using a combination of traditional, alternative and supplemental story pole methods.

“This is a plan that will not have any temporary install poles, but a plan that has all the poles indicating the building envelopes and heights,” said project manager John La Raia.

H.G. Fenton Company, which bought the 13.4-acre site at South Nardo and Stevens avenues in 1998, has plans to demolish and rebuild Solana Highlands, a 194-unit complex constructed in 1972.

Plans include replacing the complex with 260 one- and two-bedroom apartments in 24 two- and three-story buildings. Thirty-two of the apartments would be affordable units. Plans also include 525 onsite parking spaces, a recreational facility and a pool.

Construction would take place in three phases over 36 to 40 months.

Because the project is taller than 16 feet, it is subject to the city’s view process, which includes installing story poles to show the proposed project height and general outline of the buildings. Traditional story poles consist of poles connected by wires with flags. Support structures also usually keep the poles in place.

Initially, the developer requested a partial waiver because some story poles would need to be installed in driveways, fire lanes and parking spaces.

During an onsite visit in January, the fire chief and fire marshal confirmed that, if installed, many of the poles and support structures would create a public safety hazard because they would make it difficult or impossible for responders to reach the site.

Therefore, under the original plan, the developer proposed to install only 70 percent of the 182 required story poles.

H.G. Fenton planned to display the remaining 30 percent, or 54 poles, in a 3-D digital model. The company also proposed using temporary mobile cranes to simulate the location of the waived poles, according to the original plan.

When that plan was presented during the March 11 council meeting, however, more than a dozen people asked council members to deny the request, arguing that they needed to see a complete picture of the proposed remodel. The city also received several letters opposing the plan.

The council continued the public hearing to April 8 so the developer could hold a community meeting and refine the plans. The April 8 hearing was continued to May 6.

About 40 people attended the April 15 workshop, where H.G. Fenton introduced the modified plan. After hearing the revised plan at St. James Academy, workshop attendees walked over to the property to better visualize some of the proposed story poles.

H.G. Fenton presented the modified plan during the May 6 council meeting, outlining what types of poles would be placed where. The revised story pole plan uses a combination of four methods to mark building envelopes, including heights, corners and edges.

The plan uses 134 traditional story poles.

The plan also uses triangulated points, which safely show the corner of a building in the middle of a drive aisle by using support poles with a wire going across them on each side of the drive aisle. There will be some sort of soft indicator, such as a flag, dropping down to indicate the corner of a building. A wire with flags will show the side of a building.

There are 26 triangulated points and about 48 support poles. Additional support poles may be needed for safety reasons.

There are still some poles that can’t be accommodated by this system, so the plan also incorporates nine offset, traditionally installed poles. Six poles overexaggerate the length or width of the building by 31 inches to 16 feet, 9 inches. Three of the poles underexaggerate the length or width of the building by 14 inches to 45 inches.

Last, the plan includes one location where a boom lift with a pole will be parked on site.

The installation will take about two weeks to complete. The poles will remain in place for at least 30 days.

After the installation, the developers plan to hold two workshops on a weekday and a weekend to answer questions about the story poles. The developers will also meet with residents by appointment.

The plan, which is color-coded with a legend, will be available at city hall and at the complex’s leasing office.

“We’re grateful that you continued this public hearing, for directing H.G. Fenton to rework their story pole plan,” said Gina Jacobs, a resident of Turfwood, a neighboring condominium community. Several residents from the complex attended the meeting.

“It would have been impossible for us and other neighbors to gain insight into the scope, ramifications or implications of this project if the applicant had been able to move forward with their initial story pole plan.”

Jacobs asked for at least three community meetings, but said she appreciated that the applicant agreed to meet privately with individuals and groups. Resident Jim Ratzer also asked for additional weekend meetings, as well as additional lifts onsite in case there are questions about the offset poles.

Council members thought that two meetings and additional meetings upon request met the community’s needs. H.G. Fenton also agreed to have additional lifts onsite during the public meetings.

“I appreciate the applicant’s efforts,” said Deputy Mayor David Zito. “This is going to be very complex. It will be a learning experience for all of us.”

“Thank you for your creativity and innovation in coming up with this,” added Mayor Lesa Heebner. “I think that will go a long way as we get to the next phase of public input on the project, which is listening and seeing if we could also make a few adjustments if we were to hear that they were, perhaps, needed.”