Proposed Rancho Santa Fe village commercial project receives Association approval


By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board gave approval to a new village retail project, Plaza de Acacias. The new plaza is slated for the corner of El Tordo and Avenida de Acacias and is much different, and smaller, than other projects proposed for the site.

The project will now go to the County for final approval. If the County requests any significant changes in the project, then it will come back to the Art Jury and RSF Association board.

Developers Brad Geier and Mike Grehl said they grew up in the Ranch and understand the sensitivities of the community toward this site, especially the controversy that swirled around the last proposed development there, the Lilian. While the Lilian’s plans included more than 23,000 square feet of commercial and housing use, in addition to an underground parking facility, Plaza de Acacias is only 6,170 square feet, leaving the current parking lot intact.

Plaza de Acacias will have no residential element, just commercial, and utilize the 68 parking spaces adjacent to the site behind Wells Fargo and Union Bank.

Robert Green, building commissioner, said that the project meets all codes and requires no variances.

Green said the architecture is very high quality, a mix of single and two story elements, with archways, stucco detailing and wrought iron features.

Renderings showed a building that blended in nicely with its surroundings.

“We couldn’t be happier to add to the fabric of this community,” said Grehl.

He said they hired architect Doug Mansfield, a former RSF Association Lily Award winner, to design the project, knowing he could embrace the Lilian Rice look that “everyone loves.” They kept the building small, not wanting to push the limits or the Covenant design guidelines.

Director Roxana Foxx said she was impressed at the sensitivity they employed with the project.

“It looks a lot better than what’s there,” Foxx said. “It looks like it belongs in the original batch of buildings.”

Board president Jack Queen said there are always concerns about having just banks and mortgage companies in the village and he asked Grehl if he thinks the building will be suitable to attract retail tenants.

Grehl said yes, that they will be able to build spaces out for specific retail types and noted that having their own, at grade, adjacent parking makes it suitable for customers to come visit.

The parking was a sticking point for several of the board members, knowing how spaces are at a premium in the village.

In the current parking lot, the banks own 27 of the 48 spaces. The remaining 21 are leased out to individuals right now but would be returned as public parking when the Plaza is built.

Grehl said that they have also been conscious of the construction process, working on a management plan that brings the least impact to the community.

He said it should be a very quick build, less than six months. RSF Association Manager Pete Smith suggested they follow a similar plan taken by the school’s construction team, where construction vehicles were parked outside of the village to avoid taking up any more parking spaces.

As the project is still in the preliminary application phase, a final plan must be submitted to the Art Jury for recommendation and the project will come back to the Association board for final approval.