For the third time this year, another Coast Highway 101 building in Encinitas’ downtown is scheduled for demolition.
Encinitas Smog, at 682 South Coast Highway, has lost its long-term lease, says owner Alex Stanton. He expects to be out of business by next June if the property owner’s plans get approved.
The other two buildings — the former Villa Mar Motel at the corner of Coast Hwy. and West I Street, already demolished, along with the former Coast Furniture building at 850 South Coast Hwy. — will bring new mixed-use commercial/residential. None of the buildings were considered so historic that they were worth fighting to save.
The planned two-story, 30-foot-high structures will help push the changing face of downtown's ten-block length. Framed by the La Paloma Theatre on its north end and the Self Realization Fellowship grounds to the south, older retail locations such as bookstores, a hardware store, resale clothing, bike shops, an irrigation supply, and an exotic used car lot, are melding with high-end boutiques, a Whole Foods, and over 25 fairly new restaurants, bars, brewpubs, and coffeehouses.
In what future architectural students might describe as Early 21st Century Modern, the three buildings, each designed by different firms, will feature similar styles of a natural and organic design: a lot of right angles, beach rock or sandstone-infused walls, lots of glass, palm trees, and drought-tolerant, yet flowering, landscaping.
If the plans are approved, Encinitas Smog will become two semi-attached buildings, one at 5611 square feet of floor space, the other just over 3000 square feet. Both will have underground or below-grade parking in the rear alley.
Stanton started his smog-check business in the former Texaco station in 1980. He said he’d like to find a similar space within a mile radius, but the city has strict rules against new automotive businesses being in the downtown area. “The only way that could happen is to go into an existing automotive-repair building, “ he said.
“But then again, I’m 56 years old and do I really want to go out and start a new business all over again?” Stanton questioned.
Thora Guthrie, executive director of 101 Main Street Association, downtown’s chamber of commerce, says the group is all for historic preservation but also promotes bringing business into the area. “The loss of older buildings creates a challenge,” said Guthrie.
She says she is sorry to see Stanton have to go. He has been a big supporter of downtown Encinitas: his shop has been the focal point of the association’s popular monthly car shows. At the May-through-September shows, the theme cars of the month park on Stanton’s lot, where bands play and awards are given out. Even Stanton’s business sign is a small replica of the 1920s-style Encinitas sign that drapes across the highway a few blocks down.
“We need more active retail, “ said Guthrie. “We have enough restaurants, insurance companies, and real estate offices. Active retail is important to our vitality.”
Downtown Encinitas’ new commercial is pushing out older, long-established businesses like Stanton’s.
“We know that everyone’s rent is increasing,” said Guthrie. “We also know several businesses are now making the decision whether to continue. We can’t control the rents. But we can work on an understanding [with developers and the city] to help keep mom-and-pops in business and keep the cool vibe.”