New Plan Aims to Create a Vibrant, 18-Hour Downtown Lake Elsinore

City poised to unveil Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan

Post Date:08/30/2018 11:20 AM

Savory aromas sift from open-air restaurants and cafes. Music splashes from lively pubs.

Shops with intriguing wares beckon as visitors, friends and families enjoy evening strolls, relishing cool evening breezes along the leafy promenade, undisturbed by the rumble of car engines.

Overhead, roof-top lounge customers sip cocktails while enjoying magnificent views of the lake and mountains.

That’s the kind of unique, vibrant experience the City would like to stimulate with a new proposed land-use plan for Downtown Lake Elsinore.

The proposed plan, named the Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan, has been crafted to replace the City’s existing 2011 Downtown Master Plan.

The new plan’s goal is to jump-start increased vitality along the 1-mile long Main St. corridor from Flint Street to the lake’s edge.

“We want to make Downtown Lake Elsinore a walkable, livable, 18-hour Main Street, while also preserving our historic charm,” said Assistant to the City Manager Nicole Dailey.

In the last few years, the commercial heart of Main Street between Heald Ave., where the 95-year-old Cultural Center sits, and Prospect Street by the nearly 90-year-old City Hall, has been rejuvenated with several new businesses and restaurants occupying previously vacant storefronts.

That trend, however, has not extended to the blocks farther down the road, where in-fill development and renovation on declining properties has yet to occur.

The proposed Specific Plan strives to reduce restrictive policies on development and encourage investment by providing greater flexibility for what can be built and how.

The plan will encourage a mixed-use downtown with commercial and residential uses including restaurants with outdoor dining, entertainment, office, retail, housing, and cultural and civic uses.

The plan is now available for public review and the Planning Commission is scheduled to consider it on September 4, 2018.

As a specific plan, it would be incorporated into the City’s General Plan — its master land-use blueprint — and mandate the underlying property zoning.

After nearly seven years, the City’s original Downtown Master Plan has not yet led to an extensive downtown revitalization.

“For the most part, our original plan is can be a bit restrictive and difficult to understand,” Planning Manager Richard MacHott said. “It was time for us to see what we could do to make it easier or more attractive to invest in Downtown Lake Elsinore.”

Except for the new 7-Eleven convenience store and gas station near the southbound Interstate 15 off-ramp on Main St, there has not been any new developments along Main Street in recent years.

The 7-Eleven and other properties near it at the end of Main St, between the freeway and Flint Street, are currently known as the Gateway District. This area will no longer be part of the new proposed Specific Plan.

In the existing 2011 Master Plan, the Gateway District was one of five districts strung along Main Street from the freeway to the lake’s northeastern shore. The other districts from north to south are the Garden, Cultural, Historic and Waterfront.

The concept is reminiscent of Disneyland, where distinct sections of an area are divided into separate themes, like Tomorrowland and Frontierland. Unfortunately, though, this has created unnecessary restrictions and confusion for development and reinvestment in the Downtown.

“What was allowed in a land use designation in the Historical District was not necessarily allowed for the same land use designation in the Garden District or the Gateway District,” MacHott said. “By eliminating these planning districts, our new matrix is much clearer and easier to understand.”

While the new Specific Plan eliminates the districts, the same areas remain covered within the downtown planning area, except for the Gateway section. The latter area was left out because it doesn’t fit with the mixed use, entertainment and recreational orientation of the Specific Plan.

The new plan was created to allow the market to determine what should be built rather than the City dictating what should be built in a certain spot. The plan discards such explicit directions as a traffic roundabout on Main St. and specific sites for uses such as a new City Hall and Library.

“We’ve streamlined our plan and made it more flexible to encourage investment and development downtown,” MacHott said.

The Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan encompasses 178 acres stretching from Flint at North Main St. south to the lake’s edge. To the west of Main, the area is generally bounded by Riley Street and the lake’s outlet channel. To the east, it is bounded by Ellis and Chestnut streets.

While doing away with the district concept, the specific plan proposes a Downtown Core area, which is located along both sides of Main St. between Franklin Ave. and Library St.

The purpose of the Downtown Core area is to identify that portion of the Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan that requires specific policies and preferences that will promote a vibrant, 18-hour downtown core area that revitalizes the overall downtown and transforms into the ultimate destination to live, work and play. 

“We want to make sure we retain the nostalgic ambience of our charming downtown,” said Dailey. “But, we also want to have the right types of businesses and uses in this core area that will attract locals and visitors to spend their day and nights in Downtown Lake Elsinore.”

Land-use policies in the Downtown Core would promote use by pedestrians over vehicles and encourage visitor-serving businesses such as restaurants and entertainment that would stay open into late evening hours.  The Downtown Core aims to be a destination with a unique experience that complements other local visitor destinations such as the Lake, Diamond Stadium, Rosetta Canyon Sports Park, Launch Pointe and other extreme sports venues and events.

The new plan also mostly eliminates building heights limits. Rather, they would be restricted by code limitations on floor area ratio, which is the size of a structure compared to the size of the property.

“We want to let the market decide,” MacHott said. “If somebody wants to come in and they feel the market supports building a five-story building, why not let them build it.”

Multi-level projects typically are higher density uses, which are ideal in creating a more walkable, vibrant downtown. Common uses could include mixed-use projects that have commercial on the ground floor and residential above it or rooftop uses such as a hotel with a lounge and bar on the roof that can take advantage of the views of the lake.

Currently, the plan will be considered by the City’s Planning Commission on September 4, 2018 and the City Council on September 25, 2018. Following approval, the Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan will go into effect 30 days after the second reading is adopted.

Proposed Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan

 Key Points:

  • Eliminates five separate planning districts along Main Street
  • Simplifies downtown Land-Use matrix
  • Provides flexible architectural principles and guidelines, and signage options
  • Eliminates Main Street roundabout
  • Allows for downtown gateway monument at Main and Flint Street
  • Creates a Downtown Core promoting an 18-hour downtown with visitor-serving and entertainment-oriented businesses, especially at ground and roof levels
  • Envisions a future realignment of Main Street to connect with the lake
  • Encourages infill development of vacant property
  • Provides incentives to merge smaller lots into larger development sites
  • Promotes inclusion and investment in public buildings such as a Library, Post Office and City Hall
  • Provides for cultural and arts facilities and programs
  • Preserves historical character and encourages nostalgic-themed architecture and signage
  • Creates walkable streets
  • Provides adequate parking


Related Information

Downtown Elsinore Specific Plan  

2011 Downtown Master Plan

City's General Plan 

Planning Commission Agenda for September 4, 2018


Return to full list >>