Restaurant Row’s new owner and tentative plans for site revealed

The once-popular and iconic Old California Restaurant Row in San Marcos could be developed into a mixed-used project with 202 multi-family units and 10,400 square feet of commercial space under a plan submitted to the city by Lennar Homes of California.

After more than a year of mystery, Elizabeth Papera was revealed as the owner of the property.

Renderings provided by the city of San Marcos show rows of three-story attached units, white with brown trim, surrounding a grassy lawn with sidewalks. Other renderings show a ground-level commercial strip with a brewery, coffee shop, barber and restaurant facing San Marcos Boulevard.

The look is a significant departure from the California mission style that dates back to the 1970s, when the 13-acre property was developed by the Eubanks family on West San Marcos Boulevard and Via Vera Cruz.

Ryan Green, president of Lennar Homes of California’s San Diego division, said the development process is early and the application is being reviewed by the city, with comments about the project expected in about 30 days.

“We’ve got a very lengthy process to go,” he said. “We’re just in the initial stages.”

The plan calls for the demolition of many buildings, but Green said those that will stay include Buffalo Wild Wings, Fish House Vera Cruz and Cocina del Charro.

In a document filed with the city and dated June 17, Elizabeth Papera is named as the property owner of Restaurant Row. No other information about the owner could be found, and the question of who owns Restaurant Row had puzzled city officials and tenants of the site for more than a year.

A grant deed was filed Dec. 31, 2020,at the San Diego County Recorder and shows the property was purchased by San Marcos Row, a limited liability company, but there was no name associated with the LLC.

The California Secretary of State’s website shows San Marcos Row LLC was formed in Delaware and registered with the state Jan. 4, 2021. The company has a Los Angeles address and is represented by Vcorp Services in Glendale, which did not disclose the name of their client when asked last year.

At an event in San Marcos earlier this month, Mayor Rebecca Jones said she had never seen secrecy of this sort in her 16 years in office. She said she saw the behavior as detrimental to good relations with the city and community.

A sign shows eateries that once were in Restaurant Row.

Many of the eateries listed in this sign at Restaurant Row have closed, and the buildings may be razed under a proposed mixed-use development project.

(Waldo Nilo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Having that communication early on is important,” she said. “It’s important to get along, manage expectations, to find out what the needs are.

“The secrecy that’s going on right now, I have a real issue with it,” she said. ” think relationships are very important. If you look at Restaurant Row, it’s iconic. Our community has a historic sort of feeling about it. I think it needs to be preserved in some fashion.”

When Restaurant Row opened in 1978, San Marcos Boulevard was a two-lane farming road and the city had more than 20 chicken ranches and only 15,000 residents. It was built by Los Angeles developer Jim Eubanks in 1972 and had remained in his family until it was sold.

Jones said she believes the owner has property rights, but wants the community involved as the project moves forward.

“You need to have community buy-in so you’re good partners,” she said. “I think everyone should be able to get together and talk about what their expectations are. “

Jim Hadley, owner of the 55 Yardline Sports Bar for 17 years, said his business and the Old California Mining Company are the only two eateries in Restaurant Row that still have long-term leases. The few other remaining businesses are on month-to-month leases, he said.

“By February, I’m month-to-month and they can just come and shut me down,” he said. “It’s like eminent domain without getting paid.”

This is not the first time restaurant owners at the site have been anxious about planned changes to the property.

In 2016, developer John Clement announced plans for the major overhaul of the property, which would include a “lifestyle center” to attract a younger crowd and a pathway connecting Restaurant Row with the Edwards Theater and a grand promenade, open patios and a public gathering area.

Work on the overhaul was abandoned shortly after it began. A narrow building behind the now-closed San Marcos Brewery was torn down as part of the plan, and it remains a vacant, fenced-off lot.