Vista, CA — Lonna Leghart ,,, In March of 2019, the 2.27-acre property located at 536 Matagual Drive in Vista was listed for sale. On March 22nd, the large sign in the above photo was posted on the property. This immediately caught my attention, because the sign appeared to be commercial on residential land, so I investigated.
The property owner, Thomas Shadle, hired a commercial real estate agent, Bob Willingham of Kidder Matthews, to list the residential property (zoned E-1, Estates Residential) for $3,049,000. During my phone conversation with Bob Willingham, he informed me that the City of Vista had expressed interest in building a hotel on this property.
I scheduled meetings with each council member to determine the validity of Bob Willingham’s claim. By April 17th, the City of Vista’s Director of Community Development, John Conley, had already been approached by a hotel developer about rezoning the land from residential to commercial to allow for the development of a hotel.
I was notified this week by John Conley that Mid-Continent Hospitality, a hotel developer, is interested in the property, and his department is scheduled to present a staff report to the City Council on Tuesday, June 11th. The Council will discuss the approval of the request to accept a formal application for a zone change. Essentially, this would be a pre-approval of a zone change. Based on historical evidence with the current City Council, if the Director of Community Development is in favor, and the Council says yes at this stage, it is likely that the hotel will move forward through the entire development process.
Residents of Vale View Drive, Hacienda Drive, Matagual Drive, and the surrounding communities, as well as South Vista Communities Board of Directors strongly oppose a zone change for the purpose of building a hotel in our neighborhood. Our concerns include lower property values, increased traffic, loss of green space, the incongruence of a four-story building next to homes on ½-acre lots, and the fact that hotel guests will have no stake in our neighborhood. Additionally, the National Human Trafficking Hotline warns that hotels and motels are prime drug and human trafficking sites.
The City claims that if the lot remains residential, no one will want to build a house on it due to the proximity of the 78 freeway. I must disagree with this statement. Vista’s 78 corridor is surrounded by homes. The same freeway-view development is true of housing in the cities of Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos, Escondido, Poway, and in San Diego. Orange County and LA County are the same.
Vista should, in fact, maintain its rural look and feel by keeping these 2.27 acres of land zoned for ½-acre minimum lots. The General Plan of 2012 contains an entire section on Land Use and Community Identity. Its second goal is to “Preserve and enhance the characteristics and features of neighborhoods that have common development patterns, topography, major streets, and zoning.” Residential, ½-acre minimum lots would match all properties adjoining 536 Matagual Drive, unlike a multi-story, commercial development with paved parking and no green space.
The City also claims it does not have the money to purchase the property at $3,049,000 to build a park, an alternative I suggested. I must also disagree with this statement. The property is only listed at that price because the seller wants to attract a hotel developer. It is not worth that much money. In fact, some estimates price it in the $450,000 range.
The City of Vista may benefit from the added hotel and meeting space, and it may bring in tax revenue if the hotel is successful, but our neighborhood is not the appropriate place to build it. We will fight to keep our neighborhood residential. Jaydon Sterling, Vale View’s Neighborhood Watch Captain, and I are holding a neighborhood meeting on Saturday, June 8th, to inform our neighbors of the status of the sale and zone change request, we are circulating a hand-signed petition for Vista voters, and we are seeking Vistans who will speak to keep our neighborhood residential at the June 11th City Council meeting.