Excitement over an iconic addition to Murrieta—including buildings proposed to be as high as 18 stories—was evident from many in attendance Wednesday night when new and improved plans for The Triangle were discussed.
In a nearly four-hour meeting about the long-awaited project slated for the south side of Murrieta Hot Springs Road between Interstates 15 and 215, the Murrieta Planning Commission did its due diligence.
The 1.76-million-square-foot, open-air district proposed by Domenigoni-Barton Properties, LLC would include a hotel, retail and office space, restaurants, entertainment venues and pedestrian and bicycle paths. Approximately 20 percent of the project would be dedicated to open space, with areas for outdoor dining and casual seating.
“Our project vision is that we want to create a very vibrant destination that will really energize this part of the city,” said Kelly Buffa, president of Development Planning Solutions, on behalf of Domenigoni-Barton Partners. “There are hotel spaces that can attract national (companies). We can also accommodate a conference center. We can’t guarantee the mix, I can’t guarantee the Nordstrom’s is coming, but this has all been designed to attract higher end (companies) that aren’t already in town.”
Showrooms for high-end automobiles were also suggested by the applicant. Buffa showed a slide of a Tesla showroom at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
“It only holds four or five cars...it has no repairs or maintenance,” Buffa said.
Further, Buffa said, The Triangle would bring an annual net of $2.9 million in tax revenue for the city once the four phases were built out. It would also add 2,605 temporary construction jobs and 4,500 permanent jobs to the local economy.
Residents Express Support
Several Murrieta residents got a chance to speak during the public meeting, many of whom have lived in the area for decades and were happy to hear of the revived plans.
“I have lived here since the early 1980s, and Murrieta had nothing,” said Rhonda Schafer. “So I know Murrieta would be proud to have something like this. I am just here in complete support of it and I hope that you do consider it.”
Former State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, who resides in Murrieta, urged the city to work cooperatively with the developer.
“All of us really want to see this key piece of property developed into something that is a real anchor,” Hollingsworth said. He asked them, as commissioners, “to take a very good look at the things they are proposing.”
“The main point is to make this project as marketable as we can,” Hollingsworth said.
Joan Sparkman, a former board member for Mt. San Jacinto College and Temecula Valley Unified School District, encouraged commissioners to “please support this beautiful project.”
“I have looked at that property with the weeds on it for how long now? It has been a long time. So I would encourage you to do the right thing.”
Years in the Making
The dated development plan was initially approved by the County of Riverside in 1990—prior to the City of Murrieta’s incorporation in 1991—as Murrieta Springs Mall. In 1998, another plan called for a western-themed center.
“Grading was initiated but never completed,” Dennis Watts, senior planner for the City of Murrieta, said about the decades-old project.
Twenty-three years later and with renewed vision, amendments to the specific plan and city’s general plan are required in order for the project to meet current development codes, according to Watts.
Concerns Arise About Increased Traffic
An updated environmental impact report was also required, for which a 45-day public review period ended March 25.
Agencies such as the City of Temecula, County of Riverside and Caltrans submitted letters regarding the EIR, with the most pressing issue being traffic congestion. Even with French Valley Interchange completed, traffic would increase near Interstate 15 and Winchester Road, the report showed.
Planning Commissioner Gregory Goodman, who commutes north from San Diego home to Murrieta, agreed with that concern.
“...I don’t know that I find that acceptable,” Goodman said. “I am all for this project, don’t get me wrong here, and I would rather spend my money in Murrieta than someplace else...But I think you are going to see massive traffic jams backed up on the 215 more so than you do now...especially on Friday evenings.
“And I think we owe it to the folks that live here in Murrieta and north not to impede them as they move from their workplace in San Diego to home.”
As far as local traffic, entrances would be from Murrieta Hot Springs at Monroe and Hancock avenues. There would be another entrance constructed from Murrieta Hot Springs, between Monroe and Hancock, along with an internal roadway that winds through the site.
City staff said freeway traffic was ultimately under the jurisdiction of Caltrans, which is why the city entered a clause within the EIR stating “overriding considerations located within the area bounded by Interstates 15 and 215 and south of Murrieta Hot Springs Road.”
“The actual movement on the freeway is Caltrans’ responsibility, we can’t make Caltrans do anything,” said Interim City Engineer Bob Moehling. “Our Council has been great as far as getting our interchanges completed.”
Moehling noted the city has had a positive track record when working with Caltrans in recent years on interchange projects.
In other concerns brought up by staff, they recommended against electronic billboards, drive-throughs, gas stations and warehouse retail stores proposed by the developer.
“That sort of detracts from what we are trying to create here,” said Commissioner Ruthanne Taylor-Berger, about warehouse retail stores.
Commissioner Steven DeGrave was not enthused about the prospect of fast food drive-throughs at The Triangle.
“I ran a national a fast food restaurant in one of my careers,” DeGrave said. “I know how they operate, and I know how they fit into these types of projects. I just don’t think those are appropriate for this kind of diamond project we have going here.”
Next Stop: City Council
Commission Chair Jeff Kirshberg proposed they defer to City Council on the billboards, an issue he said they have been in discussions about.
All five commissioners agreed they would recommend approval of The Triangle Plan, the necessary amendments and the EIR with caveats. These include their suggestions of not allowing food establishment drive-throughs but allowing non-food drive-throughs such as banks; not allowing gas stations; not allowing four lighted billboards requested by the developer; having staff look into retail automobile showrooms; changing warehouse retail stores from permanent to conditional use; while encouraging the city to work with Caltrans on drought-resistant landscape buffers and traffic concerns.
City Planner Cynthia Kinser said a date by which City Council may take up the matter was yet to be determined.
“We are working with the developer. As soon as we are ready to go, we’ll run with it," Kinser said.
The project would be developed in phases based on market demand, with the initial terms being three years. One three-year extension would be allowed under the terms that must still be approved by City Council.
Buildings taller than 200 feet—part of phase four, the southern point of The Triangle—would need to meet federal air traffic regulations, according to city staff.
To view the meeting agenda and related Triangle documents, click here.