Judge sides with city on Sierra Ave. housing complex

Judge sides with city on Sierra Ave. housing complex
Plans to build a proposed mixed-use affordable housing complex on South Sierra Avenue may soon begin moving forward after a judge ruled the city did nothing illegal when it approved the development in April 2014. Courtesy rendering

SOLANA BEACH — A Superior Court judge revived an affordable housing development on South Sierra Avenue, ruling Aug. 17 that Solana Beach officials were within the law when they approved the proposed project more than a year ago.

For more than four years Hitzke Development Corporation has been working to build the 10-unit, mixed-use complex on a city-owned parking lot that would satisfy a decades-old legal requirement.

Solana Beach has been subject to lawsuits since the 1990s after City Council took action that closed a mobile home park.

Affordable housing advocates threatened litigation, claiming low-income units had been eliminated. Rather than go to trial, the city entered into what become known as the Perl settlement which, among other things, mandated the replacement of 13 affordable units.

Since then three have been provided.

The Hitzke proposal, redesigned twice following input from two workshops, is a three-story complex on a 14,721-square-foot lot in the 500 block of South Sierra Avenue.

It includes three 500-square-foot one-bedroom units, three two-bedroom townhomes that are 918 to 1,032 square feet, three three-bedroom units ranging from 1,002 to 1,232 square feet and a 1,383-square-foot four bedroom.

They will be available to tenants with annual incomes between $33,000 and $44,000. Monthly rents will range from $740 to $1,145.

The existing parking lot has 31 public spaces, all of which would be replaced. Hitzke will also provide the required 18 spaces for the residential component and another four for the commercial space, which is slated for office use.

Nearby residents opposed the development for several reasons, including traffic, safety, parking and noise issues and a loss of community character and property values.

They claimed city officials didn’t notice the final public hearing correctly and questioned the process for the view assessment and environmental reviews. They also said the lot was given to the city exclusively for public parking.

Shortly after the April 2014 council authorization, the Seascape Surf Estate Management Corporation, on behalf of nearby condominium owners, filed lawsuits against Solana Beach and the California Coastal Commission, which also approved the project.

Judge Robert Dalquist sided with the city on all claims. He is set to hear the Coastal Commission case before the end of the year.

“I am pleased we prevailed on all 12 counts brought against us and the judge recognized our strict adherence to all applicable laws and regulations while the council reviewed this project,” Mayor Lesa Heebner said.

“The council’s desire is to improve our community, and I believe the Hitzke project accomplishes this with superior design, inclusionary standards, years of experience in managing their properties and a high level of integrity,” she added. “I look forward to this new development and welcome our new neighbors to Solana Beach.”

Ginger Hitzke, president of Hitzke Development Corporation, said plans were put on hold when the lawsuits were filed.

“I’m pleased with the decision and grateful we get to move forward,” she said. “We’ll be gearing completely back up and putting everything back in motion.”

Hitzke said design drawings have been approved but detailed construction plans need to be created and submitted. She also needs to work with lenders.

If all goes well she said construction could begin in fall 2016. Her Coastal Commission permit does not allow work to occur in the summer because the lot is heavily used by beachgoers and the junior lifeguard program.

Hitzke also said Seascape Surf could appeal the ruling.

“But for right now I’m having a moment of joy,” she said.

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