OCEANSIDE — City Council voted to allocate $650,000 of the $5.6 million from the Laguna Vista mobile home park sale to the Mission Cove affordable housing project on Wednesday.
The decision did not come without extensive discussion.
Council previously earmarked $650,000 from the sale for beach sand replenishment and $3 million to renovate and replace beach restrooms.
The remaining funds from the sale were put in the general fund reserve.
Prior to the decision, the city manager recommended that available funds be divided among the Mission Cove affordable housing project, a healthy city reserve, a general fund reserve, pier rehabilitation, and public art.
Mayor Jim Wood began the budget discussion with a request to make railroad quiet zones a capital improvement plan priority.
“Every single city along the beach wants it,” Wood said. “It’s a cost factor.”
The cost to make necessary changes to five railroad crossings in Oceanside to establish a continuous coastal quiet zone is estimated at $3 million to $5 million.
“When monies become available we should certainly pursue them,” City Manager Peter Weiss said.
The city has already taken steps towards establishing a quiet zone.
Weiss said the city has set aside money in this year’s budget to pay for a required diagnostic study.
The city is also working with railroad and transportation stakeholders to determine what railroad crossing improvements are required for establishing the quiet zone.
“As time progresses, there is more consensus on what improvements are required,” Scott Smith, city engineer, said. “All current players are involved.”
Further council discussion concluded that funding railroad crossing improvements could wait until next year’s budget.
“We don’t have costs, we don’t have a timeline, we don’t have a budget we can approve,” Councilman Jerry Kern said.
Wood said that he made the request because he did not think the council majority would support allocating funds for the Mission Cove affordable housing project.
When it was clear that council was not on board with earmarking funds for a railroad quiet zone, discussion turned to considering allocating funds to the Mission Cove housing project.
The city is working in partnership with National Community Renaissance and Community Housing Works to build a 14.5-acre, 288-unit mixed-use affordable housing project on Mission Avenue.
Funds would be used to help close $650,000 of the project’s $3.5 million budget gap.
Federal home funds, tax credits and additional funding sources will make up the rest of the budget gap and allow the project to move forward.
“If we don’t get the $650,000, we’re still tracking along to close that gap,” John Seymour, National Community Renaissance vice president of acquisitions and planning, said.
Sanchez said funding the Mission Cove project is a good use of city funds that came from the sale of an affordable housing property.
Kern, who cast the single no vote against allocating the funds, said he would rather see all of the funds put in the general fund reserve.
“This money does not belong to the housing department,” Kern said. “It should go to the best use of the city of Oceanside.”
Kern questioned the stability of the Mission Cove housing project and ridiculed the nonprofit developer for the gap in funding.
“If we don’t allocate money to them they’ll fall apart,” Kern said. “They can’t close the gap. They should stick to their pro forma. I’m reluctant to give them one-time money.”
Weiss explained the $650,000 gap in funding is due to the state no longer providing redevelopment funds.
“When the city entered into the agreement, redevelopment was still alive,” Weiss said. “A good portion of money was allocated to this project. The money went to the state. There is no longer affordable housing money.”
Council approved allocating the $650,000 in a 4 to 1 vote.
The remaining $1.3 million from the Laguna Vista sale, and another $1 million in budget surplus were allocated to the general fund reserve.