SOLANA BEACH — Traffic was the major concern expressed during a July 13 scoping meeting for a residential care facility for the elderly proposed for a vacant 2.9-acre lot east of Interstate 5 on Genevieve Street at the intersection of Marine View Avenue.
Nearly two dozen people attended the meeting, considered the first step in the environmental review and public outreach processes.
“This is the start of a lot of opportunities for community input,” developer John DeWald said.
“My concern, more than anything else, is for the children walking to school,” Carol Thomas said, noting that the area has narrow streets and no sidewalks.
There are kids on skateboards and mothers walking babies, she added.
Thomas was among a handful of speakers who insisted traffic studies be done when the private schools in the area are in session, during drop-off and pickup and when special events are held.
Perry Sexton, M.D., who lives on nearby Los Caballitos, said many of his patients live in similar facilities.
He voiced concerns about ambulances coming and going on an emergency basis. He also questioned the strength of the roads to handle heavy delivery trucks bringing food, medicine and other supplies.
DeWald said he expected traffic to be the main issue.
“It’s a valid concern,” he said. “No matter what you put in, there will be traffic.”
Preliminary traffic counts estimate the facility will add 220 to 240 trips per day, or about 20 cars per hour.
“Most of it will be employees so the facility can adjust the shifts so they aren’t coming and going at peak traffic times,” he said. “It’s expected there will be about 55 employees, which equates to 110 trips per day. But some may take transit or carpool so it could be lower.”
The L-shaped lot has been owned by Pacific Sound Investors since 2008. When DeWald came onboard in about 2012, he first looked at what is allowed on the property.
It’s currently zoned for two residences per acre.
He said the proximity to the freeway, a landscape company and The Timbers, the large office complex that houses Battiata Real Estate Group, make it “a challenging lot that’s not well-suited for residential development.”
“We thought a residential care facility, which zoning also allows, is a need and would be viable for the site,” DeWald said. “We’ve been working for years to flush out designs because there are storm-water challenges and slopes.
“After several submittals to the city it was determined a specific plan would be the best way to go because it is a complex site and a complex building,” he added.
A specific plan requires voter approval so DeWald must gather approximately 1,300 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered voters, to qualify for an initiative that will be decided either in the fall or early next year during a special election paid for by the developers.
People will vote to approve the specific plan process, not the final development plans.
The one- and two-story facility will have up to a maximum of 99 beds — only 96 are currently proposed — in 85 one- and two-bedroom units that will be available on a rental basis. About two-thirds will be for assisted living. The other third will be memory care.
Medical care will not be provided, but assistance with daily living, including housework, meals, laundry and transportation, will be, DeWald said, noting that Solana Beach is an “aging community.”
While the population has grown since then, 2010 census data shows 2,404, or about 19 percent, of the city’s 12,867 residents were 65 or older.
A San Diego Association of Governments report indicates that from 2020 to 2035 the number of Solana Beach residents 70 and older will increase from 2,200 to 3,500. During that same time, the population of those over 80 will nearly double, from 660 to 1,271.
“There’s a definite need,” DeWald said. “Many people in Solana Beach are original homeowners who are now in their 80s. It would be nice if people could stay in their neighborhoods. It makes it easier for family and friends to visit.”
La Vida Del Mar on Del Mar Downs Road is the only other similar facility in Solana Beach.
The proposed complex will be state-licensed and include a library, dining area and entertainment space.
The footprint of the single building will take up 29 percent of the lot. Drought-tolerant and native landscaping will comprise another 41 percent, with the remaining land used for parking. There will be 62 spaces, two more than required, with 32 in an underground garage.
The maximum height will be 25 feet from the lowest grade, which is the west portion of the parcel adjacent to the freeway.
The developers are leaning toward Craftsman architecture similar to The Lodge at Torrey Pines to maintain a rural feel, but the final design, materials and landscaping have not been chosen.
“The designs are still raw because we anticipate a lot of public input,” DeWald said.
At least two workshops are planned. Feedback from those meetings will go into the final design. DeWald said in a perfect world the facility will be ready for occupancy in about three years as approval is needed from the California Coastal Commission and City Council.
The specific plan, notice of preparation and initial study can be viewed on the city website. The public comment period to weigh in on what the environmental consultants should study is open until July 24.
Submit comments to Bill Chopyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop them off or mail them to him at City Hall, 635 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Solana Beach, 92075.