SOLANA BEACH — Plans to subdivide a 4-acre parcel in the eastern section of the city into seven single-family residential lots received unanimous approval at the May 11 meeting.
After serving the community for more than 50 years, Ted and Vicky Van Arsdale are scaling back Feather Acres Farm and Nursery at 980 Avocado Place.
“Feather Acres is very, very special,” Ted Van Arsdale said. “If you’d asked me five years ago was I intending to sell I would say no. I love that place. I love my house.
“I love the property that it’s on and my neighborhood has been … magnificent,” he added. “But things change.”
The property was originally a chicken ranch with the Van Arsdale’s home the first structure built on the lot in 1942.
“We had thousands of chickens,” Van Arsdale said. “You’re probably aware not everybody wants to live next to a chicken ranch. And so as we had neighbors gradually move in the choice was to eliminate that business and move onto something else.”
In addition to the current floral business, Feather Acres was a farm that once offered pony rides, a petting zoo and cowboy-themed party opportunities.
“We live different than most people in the area,” Van Arsdale said. “It was fun. It was a ball doing it to put smiles on the kids. But it got to be to a point where we felt like it was negatively impacting our neighborhood.”
With water restrictions and changes in the flower industry, Van Arsdale said he and his wife decided to downsize the business. Rather than incur the cost of maintaining the entire lot they are selling three-quarters of it to a local man who has been coming to Feather Acres, riding ponies, since he was young.
“I’ve been coming to this property since I was in a car seat, literally,” Blair Pruett said.
The Van Arsdales will live in their existing home and operate the floral business on a 1-acre parcel. Rather than grow onsite they will use products from local growers.
Before selecting a buyer Van Arsdale said he and his wife “carefully sifted through people.”
“For us this is a very special piece of land,” he said. “We want it to fit in.”
The proposed project calls for six single-family homes, one of which will include an affordable accessory living unit as required by city code.
Construction of the six homes is not currently proposed.
Rather than sell the lots Pruett said he and his partner plan to build the houses and then sell them. When that phase of the project gets underway each home will be subject to the city’s development review process.
“The public will have another chance to weigh in on each specific house that’s built,” Councilwoman Ginger Marshall said.
Pruett and his partner have held several onsite gatherings to share their plans with their potential new neighbors.
“Our approach is unique,” Pruett said. “We wanted to get to know everybody. It’s appropriate for them to get to know us.
“They didn’t bring pitch forks or flames throwers,” he added. “They actually brought wine, food and desserts. Eventually … the name tags went away.”
Most of the 14 speakers at the May council meeting live nearby and said they support the project. Many said they were sad to see Feather Acres go but appreciated the efforts made by the Van Arsdales and Pruett.
Some concerns were raised about the affordable unit, long-term construction impacts as the lots are developed and plans to underground only some of the utility poles.
The city attorney said state and local laws require developments with more than five dwellings to include affordable units. In this case the new owners must provide one unit with two bedrooms or build a one-bedroom accessory unit and pay a $9,800 impact fee.
Council members said the tenants could be college students, senior citizens or coffee shop baristas.
“What makes Solana Beach great is a mix of people,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “We can’t just be a community of a bunch of rich old people.
“We have to allow the fabric of our community to be younger and different than us,” she added. “Please rest assured that you’re not going to have a gang … in your neighborhood.”
The city engineer said when grading permits are issued there will be requirements for permanent erosion and dust control measures, landscaping, irrigation and maintenance.
Council members said neighbors could form a district to take advantage of undergrounding poles and wires in front of their homes during development but they must be adjacent and contiguous to the work being done.
They also praised the buyers and sellers for their outreach efforts.
“It really seems like the developer has reached out and at least helped allay some of the fears,” Marshall said.
“I think it’s inevitable,” Councilman Mike Nichols said, adding that he appreciates the process they went through. “I can’t imagine it happening to a better group. … It says a lot about your character.”