New pharmacy building approved

Another new commercial building is coming to the Rancho Santa Fe village. At its Aug. 3 meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved a 4,466-square-foot building on the vacant lot on El Tordo and La Granada that will serve as the home of the new and expanded Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy. The pharmacy, owned by Jason Sabouri, will move across the street into the new building next to Rancho Santa Fe Flowers & Gifts.

“It completely enhances the intersection,” said architect Allard Jansen, noting that the Lilian Rice-style building will feature a shaded arcade and 12 rooftop parking spaces. As windows pose a security risk for pharmacies, the design brings in tiled alcoves to add architectural interest and avoid a stark, blank wall.

Rancho Santa Fe came close to losing its pharmacy altogether.

Sabouri, who has owned the pharmacy since 2009 with his family, said the current pharmacy building they lease on El Tordo is over 60 years old and needs serious upgrades. The most significant upgrade required was for security. Over the last month, 11 independent pharmacies have been broken into. The Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy has additionally been advised by the state board to have a more open floor plan so pharmacists can see everything at once for security purposes. The original plan was to try to do an extensive remodel but that would shut down the business for three to four months.

“We had no choice but to move to Encinitas, that was the plan,” Sabouri said. “But luckily we had the chance to buy the property across the street and we plan to build a state-of-the-art pharmacy that is the envy of the industry.”

At the meeting, several residents spoke in support of the pharmacy, describing its high-quality service and personalized care.

“It would be a catastrophe if the pharmacy left the village,” said Rancho Santa Fe physician Dr. Donald Brandon. “They are the best pharmacy I’ve worked with in my career.”

The project was submitted to the Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC) in 2016 and the applicants made several changes at the group’s request, such as changing the colors of the tiles in the alcoves to green, orange and beige to better tie in with the Village, and shrinking the columns of the arcade to single columns so the building would be more consistent with Rancho Santa Fe architecture.

The CDRC also required that the rooftop parking be sufficiently screened.

“The little tweaks overall made for a more attractive building that is more in harmony with Rancho Santa Fe,” said Rick Caswell, senior planner.

Sabouri agreed and said he was grateful for the CDRC process — it was extensive and held them to the highest standards in architecture and quality of materials, keeping the community’s best interests at heart.

Neighbors George and Cindy Meyer said while they support the pharmacy and think the building is a great project, they objected to the rooftop parking. They submitted comments to the Association that the parking conflicted with the code and shared concerns about the rooftop lot’s noise and safety.

Caswell said a variance is required to construct the project due to the absence of a provision for rooftop parking in the RSF Association Regulatory Code. Caswell said the code does not prohibit rooftop parking but it does not consider it, so the CDRC allowed for a deviation from the code.

“Granting the variance is in harmony with the general intent of the applicable chapter in the code,” Caswell said.

The pharmacy will only be open until 6 p.m. and access to the garage will be blocked off after 6 p.m. Jansen said with the architecture, they have worked hard to ensure the cars are fully screened from view — “You can’t see the cars on the roof unless you’re 7’2’’ and standing on a ladder,” Jansen said.

In approving the building, RSF Association President Fred Wasserman said this is a very exciting project for Rancho Santa Fe.

“I think it’s a fabulous addition to the community,” agreed board member Mike Licosati.

At the Aug. 3 meeting, the board also heard an update on the other new commercial building in the Village — the two-story Gateway project with a 5,000-square-foot market that was approved in June to take over the gas station site. According to Fernando Landa, the project is in the permitting process with the county and a brokerage team has been hired to lease the office, retail and market space.

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