Story poles will be up soon at the site of the proposed Gateway project in Rancho Santa Fe, a new development of the village gas station property that will include a 5,000-square-foot market. The poles will remain up on the corner of Via de Santa Fe and La Granada to encourage public input before the project returns to the Covenant Design Review Committee on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 8:30 a.m. at the RSF Golf Club.
Developer Enrique Landa has been working on this project for three years and the project has gone through several iterations.
“This is a very special site for us, we have been members of this community for many years and raised our family here,” said Landa, a 25-year resident of Rancho Santa Fe. His son Fernando serves as a project attorney.
At a CDRC workshop on July 26, Landa said he believes they have come up with a “wonderful” project that develops the site to its “highest, best use.”
The new mixed-use office and retail building will be 25,900 square feet with an open, “lush” landscaped park area at the entrance to the village from Via de la Valle.
The project will include a three-level underground parking garage with 138 spaces. Several pedestrian-friendly “gateways” from each direction will lead into the project, where there will be a central courtyard to serve as a public gathering space.
In working with the CDRC, Landa said they were encouraged to provide a market for the community as it became clear that Plaza de Santa Fe would not be able to replace the departed Village Market.
While no agreements have been signed, project consultant Jim Simmons said they are very interested in bringing in Stehly Farms Market, a main provider for Whole Foods Market. Stehly Farms Market would be a gourmet grocer with a deli, wine, beer and liquor sales. An example of the 5,000-square-foot store can be seen at Stehly’s newest location in the Kensington neighborhood, 4142 Adams Avenue.
In the project’s design, the plan is to create three smaller buildings around the central courtyard rather than one large building. Architect John Jenson said they articulated the massing of the buildings to look more like residential properties, with wrought iron details, use of tile and canvas awnings. The perimeter will also be landscaped around a stone wall that reaches six feet at its maximum height, Simmons said
In previous iterations of the project, some street parking was lost but in the current plan, street parking will remain on La Granada, Via de Santa Fe and La Flecha. The only loss of parking will be at the entrance to the parking garage on Via de Santa Fe.
“We hope to improve the parking situation in the village, not damage it,” Simmons said, noting that future tenants will be required to park on site.
Variances will be required from the Rancho Santa Fe Association as it will be increasing the floor area ratio (FAR) which is a regulation that limits building bulk. As Building Commissioner Robert Green explained, the bonus of FAR is allowed up to a certain amount (0.75) if the project meets three of four bonus criteria: The building must be Spanish-colonial Lilian Rice-style design, a total of not less than 10 percent of the site area must be used as courtyards, no portion can exceed one story and at least 25 percent of the ground floor area must be retail use.
The Gateway project exceeds the allowable building bulk by about 5,000 square feet (approximately the size of the market) so a variance will be necessary. However, the project appears to meet the required three of the four bonus criteria because it has complimentary Spanish-colonial style, it is providing 13 percent of the project as courtyards and 36 percent of the ground floor area will be retail use. As a proposed two-story building, is not able to meet the one-story requirement.
At the meeting, residents in attendance complimented the “charming” and well-thought-out design that will be a marked improvement aesthetically to that corner.
A few community members expressed concerns about how the project will affect traffic flow, seeing La Granada or Via de Santa Fe with the potential to get clogged as people attempt to park on the street or access the parking garage while competing with Plaza de Santa Fe and the post office use across the street.
Simmons said they have completed a traffic study that indicates that the project will not cause a negative impact to traffic.
Others were happy that a market would be coming but were concerned that it would represent the only retail aspect of the project while the rest would be more office space. With rents at $4 to $7 per square feet, some residents doubted any retail establishment would be able to come.
Landa remarked that it was true that the rents are a challenge and the only reason they will be able to attract a market is if they are able to get the variance to add the additional 5,000 (approximately) square feet.
Marion Dodson, representing the Village Merchants Association, said that the project is a logical place for the expansion of the village commercial center.
“It does provide things we could use and need in this community. I look at it very positively, I think it’s something that will be a very integral part of the commercial district here in town,” Dodson said.