OCEANSIDE — In early February, council approved a resolution that would allow the construction of a four-story, 137-room hotel at the entrance to El Corazon Park.
The hotel will be a Home2 Suites by Hilton, a new brand of hotel by the company. It will sit on an existing vacant 2.65-acre site on the corner of Rancho Del Oro and El Corazon Drive that is designated as a Regional Hotel Site in the city’s El Corazon Specific Plan.
The hotel will include 137 rooms, 142 parking spots, a lobby, dining area, outdoor pool and patio and an exercise room.
According to City Principal Planner Richard Greenbauer, the hotel is expected to generate for the city more than $650,000 annually in transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenue and $1 million in development fees, and will create 45 permanent jobs and 150 construction jobs.
Though the project met all the conformance requirements outlined in the El Corazon Specific Plan, the Planning Commission previously denied approval of the hotel with a 6-0 vote. Ivey Ranch Development Company, the project’s co-applicant, then appealed the project, citing four responses to concerns brought up by the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission found that the site plan and physical design of the hotel did not include enough variation along exterior wall planes, particularly on the southeast corner of the hotel where the park’s main entrance is located. Additionally, the Planning Commission felt the project did not provide an appropriate amount of plants and trees on the southeast corner.
Several speakers at the Feb. 5 council meeting, including Diane Nygaard who spoke on behalf of Friends of El Corazon, also find the hotel’s design unfavorable.
“The architecture looks like an institution,” Nygaard said.
According to Jason Huber, project manager of the hotel’s developer Stirling Development, said project leaders worked with city staff to “soften” the hotel’s corner beacon tower by refining accent colors, and to enhance the landscaping to “naturally screen” the building’s massing.
Mayor Peter Weiss motioned to approve the hotel’s construction if the applicant agreed to work with city staff more to consider additional architectural features on the southeast corner of the building, which was included in council’s 4-1 vote of approval.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez was the only vote against the hotel. Though she wants to see it happen, she also took issue with the architecture.
“It looks like the San Diego County Jail,” she said.
The Planning Commission also found that the hotel would not conform to the city’s General Plan because the hotel’s entrances weren’t located on a different internal road. The hotel will have two entrance and exit points off of El Corazon Drive.
“We can’t have two driveways in our park entrance,” Nygaard said. “It will no longer be our park, it will be their hotel.”
Huber explained to council that the project is restricted from accessing Rancho Del Oro Drive, and due to poor soil conditions cannot create an access point on the western side of the parcel. He also noted that the entrance and exit points are located on El Corazon Drive due to fire and emergency access concerns.
Deputy City Manager Jonathan Borrego confirmed that the parcel’s small size makes it “challenging to work with” particularly due to the poor soil conditions on the western side, and so access off El Corazon was the only available option.
“I’ve scrubbed the Specific Plan several times and nowhere in the Specific Plan either in the development standards or the sign guidelines does it speak to not taking access off that street,” Borrego said. “There are exhibits that do suggest that the access be taken off that internal street, but of course those conditions have changed.”
The hotel is expected to break ground in 2021 and to be completed in 2022.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son