Ann Gardner | Via Latina
Flowerhill expansion plans include a 94,275-square-foot 4-level
above-ground parking structure. (seen in gray behind the yellow block)
Is Protea Properties, a La Jolla based Real Estate Investment and Development Trust, using the Whole Foods name to deflect objections to their plans for the nearby Flower Hill shopping mall? The proposed expansion on Via de la Valle eliminates the 14,000 sq. foot Flower Hill Cinema and adds a new 35.000 sq. ft. Whole Foods Market, 40,000 sq. ft. in retail/office space and a 94,275 sq. ft. four level above ground parking structure. Protea says this will provide “the kind of amenities that residents and visitors want most.”
Visitors maybe, but certainly not all of those “residents.” Citizens Against Flower Hill’s Excessive Expansion,” a group of adjacent homeowners, wants the “transformation” scaled down. A second group wants the proposed realignment of Flower Hill Drive to become an entrance to the parking structure, eliminated. “ The community may be sold on a Whole Foods Market but will they really be sold when they see the scale and bulk” of the project spokesperson Robert Vicino asks. (New structures, including the four level parking garage, will more than double the current bulk.) Because the site is located within the City of San Diego, not Del Mar, both sides are making their case before the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board. A decision by the Board may come as early as May 11.
In the meantime the Board is requesting a site visit and additional meetings with neighbors to resolve outstanding issues. There is progress Chair Frisco White said at the April board meeting, but “ I want to see the final project before we take action.” Board member Anne Harvey is concerned about the loss of “favorite” community gathering spots such as Panniken to higher (translate: upscale) rents. Assurances from Protea not withstanding, the Mall has already lost the “mom and pop” Thinker Things toy store to Gepetto’s, similar one could say to losing Panniken to a Starbucks. And of course the neighborhood theatre is already slated to go.
Missing from the discussion was concern about public access to coastal resources, a seemingly obvious issue because the project is wedged between the coast and the recently restored San Dieguito Lagoon with its boardwalk and bird watching platform to the west, and the Coast to Crest trailhead and proposed San Dieguito River Park Interpretive Center, to the south and east. The California Coastal Commission has notified the City that the required Coastal permit “rests entirely” with them. But the City disagrees and plans are moving through the City where coastal related uses such as beach access and scenic corridors may or may not be given priority.