Torrey Reserve plan gets OK

Four years after the proposal for a Torrey Reserve office and retail project was brought to the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board’s attention, it was approved.

Last week, the board agreed to the proposal after massaging the plans and adding conditions.

“When we first saw this plan four years ago, it was pretty scary for the residents of Arroyo Sorrento,” board member John Dean said. “Literally every one of our issues has been addressed, and I think we have a good project here.”

As recently as January, the proposal was warily met. But board member Alan Bradshaw suggested that the board work with American Assets, the developer proposing the project, to create a plan everyone could live with.

While the project includes adding 80,000 square feet of new office and retail buildings on both sides of El Camino Real, the board’s biggest issues were with a building planned for the corner of Arroyo Sorrento Road.

The original proposal was for a two-story, 28-foot-tall building fronting the road.

The mass of the building worried the planning board and, in response, American Assets lowered the height to 21 feet and “softened up” its look by adding some stonework.

One of the board’s conditions was that the corner building be set back farther from the street.

Landscaper Mike Nichols presented plans for 46 feet of space at the corner, heavily landscaped with ornamental grasses, lemonade berry, California holly, strawberry trees and New Zealand tea trees.

“It will be a nice coastal palate with a nice sense of entry and approach to Arroyo Sorrento,” Nichols said.

Neighbor Anne Harvey said she is pleased with the plan for the corner.

The building is tentatively planned to house a restaurant and possibly a drive through banking facility. The board’s condition is that the drive through is placed on the interior north side of the building.

Neighbor Steve Thomas was concerned that ocean breezes to his hillside home would carry the odors of the restaurant.

He said he occasionally catches the scent from Ruth Chris’ Steak House from across the street.

“It’s nice to smell steak once in awhile but it can get overwhelming,” Thomas said.

To reflect his concerns, one of the board’s conditions was that if a restaurant goes in, it should have an appropriate filtering system.

One last board concern was the project’s lighting and its impact on neighbors. American Assets agreed to use 18-foot-tall light structures, a huge dip from the current ones that are 50 feet high.