Villa Storia housing development approved

OCEANSIDE — The City Council gave the go ahead for the 328-unit Villa Storia housing project to be built in the mission historic district on Wednesday.

A 4-1 vote supported the project’s environmental impact report, general plan amendment and requested zoning change, with strong opposition from Councilwoman Ether Sanchez.

The council majority also upheld the Planning Commission’s approval of the project’s map, development plan and historical permit.

Sanchez spoke for more than half an hour on points she did not support. Her concerns included the negative impact the project has on the city’s jobs to housing ratio, and the increased demand it brings on city services.

Councilman Jerry Kern said the development does not present a greater demand on services than any other housing.

“All these projects have impacts we have to adjust to,” Kern said. “We don’t cost it out per house, we don’t cost it out per neighborhood.”

Speakers at the meeting were split on the project.

Mobile home and landowners, who neighbor the development and appealed the Planning Commission’s approval, shared their concerns.

Lucienne Austin, a homeowner in the adjacent San Luis Rey Mobile Homes community, said problems include traffic increase on Academy Road to 5,000 vehicle trips a day, construction noise and dust, and towering two and three story neighboring homes.

“Nine roads will feed onto Academy Road,” Austin said. “How are we going to get in and out of our park? This isn’t going to work. It’s a huge and dangerous challenge.”

Speakers pointed out that many residents in the senior mobile home community use electric scooters for transportation, and would have difficulty navigating the heavily impacted road that runs through the development, or the alternative route that includes lengthy travel to signaled crosswalks.

“It will jeopardize heath, safety and welfare,” Beatrice Nelson, a 92-year-old resident of the San Luis Rey Mobile Homes community, said. “I think you need a little bit of compassion here.”

Others said the impacted two lane road would cause a fire trap for residents, although it was also said firefighter response time would remain the same or improve with project roadwork.

Residents also spoke about land in the historic district being gone forever once development breaks ground.

Mission San Luis Rey parishioners made up a large number of those who spoke in support of the project, including the church pastor and mission executive director Fr. David Gaa. A plus mentioned by many is on-site affordable housing units.

“Villa Storia is going to be our neighbor,” Gaa said. “The bottom line is this is OK for us. Affordable housing is needed.”

Oceanside Chamber of Commerce board chair Marva Bledsoe said the Chamber supports the project, which brings 38 affordable housing units, and a net zero water impact by offsetting the cost of a recycled water pipeline.

Russ Cunningham, city senior planner, presented the project and shared city staff’s support. He said the city needs 6,200 new housing units to meet its expected population growth in the next five years.

“Economic development is important to the city, so is the goal of housing development,” Cunningham said. “I think the project is a good fit financially and functionally.”

There was discussion on Oceanside’s need to increase its fire and police forces in order to serve the growing population Villa Storia and the other 2,100 units under review will bring. Both Councilmen Kern and Chuck Lowery said they hoped future city budgets would address the need. The city currently spends 61 percent of its general funds budget on public safety.

Presentations by the developer and opposing mobile home owners, and discussion that followed went on for several hours.

Before the vote Councilmen Kern, Lowery and Jack Feller voiced their support for the housing project, which has weathered through a two and a half year review process. The councilmen said the developer has been very responsive to city and community requests, and gone beyond requirements.

“I think this is important, affordable units are going to be built without city money,” Feller said. “It’s better than anything I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been here.”

The council will vote on final approval of the project’s zoning change Oct. 7.

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