Costa Azul, a new hotel, office and restaurant project in Carmel Valley was approved by the San Diego Planning Commission on July 22. As an added benefit to the community, the project offers a public trail and a small park.
The new mixed-use development will include a seven-story Element by Westin hotel and a five-story office building with space for two restaurants on the corner of El Camino Real at the end of Valley Center Drive.
The Costa Azul site sits in a corner of El Camino Real which is already home to several hotels, including Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, San Diego Marriott Del Mar and the upcoming 127-room, five-story Hyatt Place Hotel next door, filling the space left vacant by Tio Leo’s Mexican restaurant.
“We’ve been working on this for quite some time,” developer Hunter Oliver said of the project first proposed in 2014 and unanimously approved by the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board in 2018. Architect Darrel Fullbright said listening “intensely” to community feedback, incorporating ideas to improve architectural design and provide more benefit to the community.
The developers had planned to appear before the town planning commission for approval last October, but that was delayed.
The Planning Commission approved a height variation for the project because the maximum height in the area is 60 feet and 14% of the project is above the height limit. A terrace effect was used to divide the height, and staff found the height to be consistent with the heights of surrounding buildings, including the 12-story Marriott.
The eight-foot-wide pedestrian promenade will connect walkers, runners and cyclists around the project from Valley Center Road. The trail will continue to descend to join Old El Camino Real and Carmel Valley Road towards Torrey Pines State Beach.
The office building will have a rooftop layout that will be open to the public for events and the restaurants aim to keep users on site. With the departure of Tio Leo, Taco Bell is the only restaurant serving the immediate area: “This end of Carmel Valley really needs it,” Remington Diaz said in a public comment.
Commissioners questioned the easement of the project viaduct, as the Costa Azul was designed to accommodate the Caltrans flyover ramps that will connect SR-56 to Interstate 5. The connector project has been in the works for decades. and is currently not funded for the final design or construction: “I’m not sure it will be built in my lifetime,” Oliver said.
Prior to the hearing, the commissioners received “robust” public comments against the project, worth around 400 pages, citing the need for a full environmental impact report on the project because of the potential impacts on the project. traffic and air quality. During the public comments, questions were also asked as to whether office use was permitted in the visitors’ shopping area.
Commissioner Douglas Austin said the opposition appeared to be a “CEQA weapon” and spurious given that the project has been in development for several years and the issues were raised just days before the hearing.
“I find these objections petty and beyond bad faith,” agreed Vice President James Whalen. “It’s the oldest part of Carmel Valley and it’s wonderful what they’ve done here.”
“I think this is going to be a nice addition to the region,” Austin said, adding that the developer must have done something right to get a 10-0 vote from the planning board.