Council gives feeback on El Corazon projects

OCEANSIDE — The City Council held a workshop to give its feedback on two residential projects proposed for the city owned El Corazon property on March 25. The goal of the workshop was to give developers an early heads up on where the council stands, and if changes are recommended.

Within the El Corazon property’s 465 acres, 44 acres are designated for commercial use. A 19-acre portion of that is the village commercial area, which is slated for mixed-use development with retail on the first floor and up to 300 residential units on the second floor of the buildings.

Shopoff Realty Investments and Sudberry Properties groups discussed the challenge of developing viable commercial space in the tucked away village commercial location, which is not adjacent to a major roadway.

Shopoff Realty Investments group proposed the Park Villas project that contains 80 townhomes and no commercial space. The proposed live-work units could accommodate home businesses on the first floor of 54 of the 80 units.

Brian Rupp, Shopoff’s vice president of development, said the reality is the market does not support commercial development at that location. Rupp added the nearby commercial center is struggling.

“There are high vacancies right down the street, and that’s a wonderful, beautiful project,” Rupp said.

Stephan Swanson, co-owner of Valerie’s Taco Shop, said half the commercial spaces are vacant in the nearby Ocean Ranch Corporate Center where his restaurant is located.

“Right now we’re treading water,” Swanson said. “We need a new customer (base). New retailers would kill us.”

Richard Parker, market research consultant for Rea and Parker Research, verified the lack of area customers, and the benefit of building more housing to generate more commercial need.

“The best thing is to bring in new customers and more spending,” Parker said.

Rupp called developing a residential project that would benefit nearby commercial sites, and not including 17,800 square feet of commercial development proposed for the mixed-use lot, a “slight shift in philosophy.”

Diane Nygaard, president of Friends of El Corazon, urged the City Council to stick with the specific plan that calls for mixed-use development and 50 housing units on the lot.

“We need to take the time do it right and support the specific plan,” Nygaard said. “It’s (Park Villas) not our vision of El Corazon.”

The council was split on supporting the stand-alone residential project.

Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed the housing-only project that strayed from the specific plan.

Sanchez noted the low jobs to housing ratio the city holds, and stressed the need for commercial development to be done at the same time as residential development.

“Residential development does not pay,” Sanchez said. “I don’t believe it’s going to generate a revenue producing demand for services.”

Councilman Jerry Kern requested city staff have an independent analysis of market conditions done.

Kern added the specific plan was designed to have some flexibility, and can be amended if conditions change.

Other council members did not wish to pursue a study.

Councilman Jack Feller supported the Park Villas project moving forward.

“I’m excited about the idea of mixed-use commercial on the first floor,” Feller said. “We’re acting like business killers here.”

Mayor Jim Wood was absent.

Sudberry Properties group’s request to amend the specific plan to allow horizontal mixed-use development, with a combination of buildings with two floors of residential or two floors of commercial, received a more positive review.

The council supported the proposal of 270 housing units and 5,000 square feet of commercial space on one lot, with a promise from Sudberry to develop a total of 337,000 square feet of commercial space throughout the three lots the company plans to develop.

The meeting was for feedback only. No vote was taken.

The developers can choose to take the projects forward through the public hearing process, and receive formal feedback from the City Council.

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