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Calendar >  Oceanside Council Nixes Approval Of high-density Home Project

Oceanside Council Nixes Approval Of high-density Home Project

By   /  January 16, 2024  /  No Comments

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Oceanside, CA – Officials side with residents who say Loma Alta Estates project is too dense and would be unsafe in old neighborhood

The Oceanside City Council upheld an appeal by residents to overturn the Planning Commission’s approval of a high-density subdivision in the city’s older Loma Alta neighborhood Wednesday.

The City Council, in a 5-0 vote, agreed with residents that there were serious safety concerns about squeezing 13 single-family homes up to three stories tall separated by as little as 8 feet on a two-acre parcel.

Under California’s density bonus law, by including a single home reserved for a very low income family, the proposed Loma Alta Terraces project could place 13 homes on a vacant lot the city zoned for a maximum of 9 homes. The Planning Commission voted 4-2 on Oct. 9 to approve the project, with commissioners Louise Balma and Jay Malik opposed.

In this case, the density bonus law would allow the developer to reduce the lot widths from the city’s minimum of 70 feet to as little as 29 feet and the minimum lot size from 10,000 square feet to 2,752 square feet. Front yard setbacks would drop from 25 feet to 18 feet, side yards from 7.5 feet to 4 feet.

The vacant site is off Loma Alta Drive between Mesa Drive and Canyon Drive. The neighborhood is about midway between Oceanside Boulevard and Mission Avenue, east of Interstate 5 and west of El Camino Real.

Residents said the development is out of character with their neighborhood, would violate their privacy, and would compound traffic, parking and stormwater run-off problems.

“They are shoehorning 13 houses into our neighborhood, and that doesn’t fit,” said one 25-year resident.

Fire danger is another important concern, said the lead appellant, Link Ladutko.

With homes as little as 8 feet apart and only one access road into the development, it would be difficult for firefighters to respond and for residents to evacuate during an emergency, he said.

“This project presents an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of the public, and especially the people who will live there,” said Ladutko.

The developer, Scott Darnell, said the project would provide much-needed housing and meets all state requirements.

The homes would have automatic sprinkler systems and a fire hydrant would be added nearby, Darnell said. The neighborhood is outside the nearest wildfire hazard zone, which is along the San Luis Rey riverbed.

City staffers had recommended denial of the appeal, saying no significant issues had been raised.

City Council and Planning Commission members have previously supported most of the density bonus projects brought before them. They often say they don’t like the proposals, but that state law mandates approval.

“This is an example of where that density bonus is taken to a much higher degree than some of the others that we see,” said Councilmember Eric Joyce, adding that he shared the concerns raised in the appeal.

Councilmember Ryan Keim said the 11 waivers requested for things such as lot size, setbacks and height restrictions were excessive.

“It’s disappointing,” Keim said. “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do in that neighborhood.”

Councilmember Peter Weiss said his reason for denying the project was the private street that would provide its only access. Plans call for the street to have a 16 percent incline, which exceeds the city’s maximum of 12 percent.

“A road that steep … exceeds the safety standard,” Weiss said.

Another concern raised by the council was that the only unit designed as affordable housing might be rented and not sold.

Conditions approved by the Planning Commission state that the affordable home will be sold, City Attorney John Mullen said. However, an attorney for the developer said the developer has an option to rent it.

“We can’t even get a commitment for the one affordable housing opportunity … to give the opportunity for homebuying for someone who doesn’t have a million dollars,” said Mayor Esther Sanchez.

The confusion over whether the affordable home would be sold or rented is “adding insult to injury,” Sanchez said.

“All of these waivers cost something,” Sanchez said. “They transfer these costs to the city, (and) the city someday is going to have to deal with all of these impacts.”

A resolution supporting the City Council’s decision to deny the project will be presented for approval at an upcoming meeting.

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