ESCONDIDO — An influx of new buildings is introducing a modern vibe to South Escondido’s rustic landscape just as city planners are preparing to roll out draft guidelines for high-quality development that will blend in with the area’s existing structures.
A drive through Escondido’s southern gateway from the I-15 north and Centre City Parkway exit reveals a graded lot next to the Hacienda de Vega restaurant on the right poised for construction of a William Lyon Homes condominium complex called Citron. Located at 2516 S. Escondido Blvd., the developer plans to build 63 units in several attached two- and three-bedroom, three-story floorplans. Newport Beach-based William Lyon Homes expects construction to run through May 2019. The homes will be selling from the high $300,000s with the last homes closing around August 2019.
Jon W. Robertson, Southern California division president for William Lyon Homes, said the developer is confident Citron will fit in nicely with the surrounding homes and that the complex will add value to and enhance the neighborhood’s character.
Robertson said William Lyon Homes hopes to continue the success it had with the 84-unit, three-story Contempo condos completed in Escondido at 211 South Orange St. in September 2014.
“We wanted to maintain our presence in the San Diego market and we were successful with Contempo, which was our last community in Escondido,” he said via email. “We look forward to partnering with the city of Escondido again.”
Not far down the road just past West Citracado Parkway beside longtime Christmas retailer Canterbury Gardens & Gifts is another new residential project, the recently completed Haven76 built by a separate company, Lyon Living. Named in part for its 76 units, these one-story apartments at 2414 S. Escondido Blvd. feature one-, two- and three-bedroom floorplans that opened a year-and-a-half ago. Monthly lease rates are currently starting at $1,865 but fluctuate with market conditions and availability.
The spree of townhomes add a modern touch-up in a mostly mixed-use and residential area gradually developed since the 1950s with homes, restaurants, assorted services including a welding shop and a tire outlet, a day care center and an Elks Lodge.
The neighborhood’s ongoing facelift has also been enhanced with the addition of Talk of the Town Auto Spa & Lube, which opened only a few months ago on a formerly vacant lot at the corner of Brotherton Road and Centre City Parkway after about eight years of planning. The delay was partly attributed to objections from nearby residents who said a carwash complex could bring too much noise and traffic to the neighborhood.
Donovan Ghazal, a relative of the Ghazal family members who own the Talk of the Town property, said they persevered and are receiving positive comments from patrons who call their self-service and full-service oil change and carwash services, including details and waxes, “amazing.”
“The majority of customers say they’re neighbors,” said Ghazal, who is optimistic the new residential developments will be a boon for business. “We’re a nice addition because everyone is loving it.”
Martin Ghazal, another one of the grandchildren who helps run the carwash, added the family is eager to fit into the community and provide a useful service.
“It brings us joy to see all of our neighbors coming in and supporting us,” Martin Ghazal said. “It is our goal to make our neighbors feel at home when they’re getting their car washed or oil changed.”
The carwash operators are still anticipating the opening of an adjacent roughly 5,000-square-foot vacant building that is awaiting a lease. A restaurant is preferred but Donovan Ghazal said the family is keeping its options open.
“There’s a small chance it won’t even be a restaurant,” he said. “If somebody wants to rent it out for something else we’ll adjust to that.”
Escondido Assistant Planning Director Mike Strong said the upgrades afoot in South Escondido precede a draft South Centre City Area Plan that will soon be rolled out for public review. Although the Specific Plan policy document does not identify specific projects for development, it does set up a roadmap for future development, he said.
Funded by a $172,754 Strategic Growth Council grant awarded through the California Department of Conservation in 2015 as a way to support infill development, Strong said the intent of the proposed South Centre City Area Plan is to help future developments fit in with the community’s existing character, adhere to best practices in urban design and regulate building standards. The policy document containing visionary goals and objective standards would promote the guidelines of the city’s General Plan, adopted in 2012, and focus on four areas in the community: South Quince, and the Centre City Parkway, Felicita Avenue and Brotherton Road areas where the streets intersect with South Escondido Boulevard.
While the plan would set building design parameters it would not be overly proscriptive with themes, he said, adding that its intent is to promote sustainability, smart growth and economic prosperity.
“It should ensure higher quality developments and also reinforce the context of the surrounding area,” Strong said. “We’re recommending (development) be compatible with other designs from downtown to the gateway.”
The draft South Centre City Area Plan is expected to be shared with the city’s Planning Commission in an introductory presentation set for Sept. 12. Strong said the purpose of the meeting is to advertise the release of a draft plan and to get people to start thinking about the planning area, what new development should look like and how things might change in the future.
Strong added they anticipate the draft plan will be released for public review in September. Shortly afterward, to facilitate the public review process, city staff will host informational open houses at City Hall.
“The format of the informational open houses will be informal,” he said in an email. “The city will also host consistent and regular set of ‘office hours’ so that the public can visit City Hall and speak to staff directly about the draft plan during their lunch hours. The meetings will be recurring weekly at a specific time, which will be advertised on the city’s website after the plan is released.”
The City Council will have a chance to approve, conditionally approve or modify the plan late this year.
“Invariably people may have different opinions,” Strong said, noting that discussions could include proposals for fee waivers and incentives. “We want this to be something that can be endorsed by the community at large so it’s more likely the plan will be accepted.”
The recent developments in South Escondido are a welcome addition to Cindy Graesser, dean of the Promise Bible College and pastor of Young Adults at the local The Promise Church. Located at the corner of West Citracado and Centre City parkways at 2427 S. Centre City Parkway, the nondenominational Christian church serving more than 160 people has been a fixture in the community since expanding from San Marcos five years ago.
Graesser said the South Escondido neighborhood is starting to attract more attention and the incoming developments pick up a formerly run-down atmosphere. Even their own church has transformed recently with upgraded landscaping, parking lot resurfacing and an expansion of their facility. She said the new condos and apartments should help boost the congregation.
“Anytime people are in that close proximity to you it definitely helps,” said Graesser, whose growing church is planning to expand from one to two services starting in October. “It’s bringing in quality and a feeling of life back to the strip.”