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Bye Bye Bully’s
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera

View of current and proposed facade along CDM. Images courtesy of Hillstone Restaurant Group and Fleetwood Fernandez Architects.
Click to enlarge.

While Del Mar may be losing one of its landmark institutions, the venerable Bully’s Restaurant, it may be gaining the first new major development in its Central Business District in over 30 years. Bully’s, a fixture in Del Mar since 1968, sited on Camino Del Mar in a structure built in 1928, is slated to be demolished and replaced by a new restaurant with about twice the floor area and three levels of parking, mostly below grade. The new structure would extend further south than the existing building, closing the “Bully’s gap” commercial dead space along CDM. At the July 26th Design Review Board meeting, the Hillstone Restaurant Group presented preliminary plans for the new restaurant. The presentation was meant to introduce the project concept to the DRB and get its feedback, prior to a formal DRB hearing.

The Hillstone Group, established in 1977, is a privately-owned company that develops, owns and runs a variety of restaurants across the U.S. Their largest brand is Houston’s, with over a dozen locations around the country. They also have numerous other restaurants throughout the U.S. representing different styles and themes that reflect the character of their location. Current plans for the restaurant, with the working title “R+D Kitchen,” will offer American cuisine and present an ambience that is “warm, modern with a sense of excitement.” It will accommodate about 120 patrons, with both outdoor patio, and indoor table and bar service. The building will have a modern brick and wood exterior that is pedestrian oriented and context sensitive. Parking spaces for 82 cars accommodating patrons and workers will be built below the restaurant - 10 more spaces than are required under current City development codes. Two openings to the underground parking structure will provide ingress and egress in the alley to the west of the site between CDM and Stratford Court.

Two Citizens Participation Program (CPP) meetings for the project were held a year ago in July 2016 at which time neighbors commented on early conceptual plans. Following the project’s submittal and initial review by the City, the street side placement of outdoor patio dining was suggested, rather than fronting the building façade up to the property line. At the preliminary presentation of the project to the DRB in July 2017, the response of the board was quite positive, with the only issues raised pertaining to outdoor lighting, some clarification on the parking requirements, and a concern regarding alley-facing windows (specifically whether they would be openable, tinted, etc.).

The current schedule for project development is for the City to complete and circulate a document called a “mitigated negative declaration” (in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act or “CEQA”) for public review and comment in September, and subsequently to have a Design Review Board hearing in the Fall. Most of the CEQA mitigations called out for the project concern the construction phase, which of necessity will have impact on the Central Commercial zone and which is estimated to take as long as one year. The plans are exempt from Coastal Commission review, and since the Bully’s building is not in the city’s Historic Overlay Zone, there are no barriers to demolishing the existing structure. The purchase of the property is currently under contract and will be finalized upon project approval by the DRB.

The prospect of having a new building and adding a vibrant social environment is seen as a positive move for downtown Del Mar revitalization. However, like most development projects in town we may have to live with some inconvenience during the construction phase. The hope is that it will be well worth it.





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