OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce has announced its support for the Newland Sierra project, a controversial 2,135-unit development north of San Marcos and west of Escondido.
Last September, the County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 with Dianne Jacob absent in favor of the project located west of Interstate 15 near Deer Springs Road. In response, petitioners collected nearly double the amount of signatures needed to force a referendum to rescind the Board of Supervisors’ approval.
Instead of rescinding its approval of the project, the Board of Supervisors voted to place it as an item on the March 2020 ballot.
Earlier this summer, project developer Newland Communities launched its “Better Choice” campaign in an effort to grow support for the project. According to the campaign’s website, a “yes” vote would support the development while a “no” would reverse the Board of Supervisors’ approval.
Like other supporters of the project, the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce pointed out the county’s shortage of housing, particularly for middle-income earners, as a reason why the organization has endorsed it.
According to Scott Ashton, Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce, the Newland Sierra project would bring relief to workers who are currently driving from Temecula or farther to work in San Diego by providing additional nearby housing.
“There are nearly 130,000 people who work in North San Diego County and we need more affordably-priced homes for them,” Ashton said in the announcement. “The Better Choice Measure goes a long way towards addressing our housing shortage while improving our ability to retain and attract talent here.”
Last year, the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) determined that the San Diego region would need to plan for 171,685 housing units during the 6th Housing Element Cycle (2021-2029) Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RNHA).
“I am concerned that if projects like Newland Sierra are denied, more of the burden of meeting RHNA will fall on our cities,” Ashton told The Coast News via email. “Overall, the project provides much more value to our region than the alternative of a retail/office development.”
Newland Sierra will consist of 2,135 units, 81,000 square feet of commercial space, open space, parks and trails. Approximately 80% of the 1,985-acre privately-owned property will be set aside for open space, 62% of the homes will be affordably priced and 19 miles of multi-use trails will be included. The plan is also the first plan in the San Diego region to be 100% carbon neutral.
Opponents of the plan, led by the Golden Door Spa, point to increased potential fire hazards, traffic issues and impacts on wildlife as some reasons why the project shouldn’t happen. They have also argued that the plan is incompatible to the county’s general plan, which has zoned the area for 99 homes and retail space.
The Better Choice campaign refers to Newland Sierra has being the better option for “land that will be developed one way or the other.”
“The measure creates affordably-priced housing and preserves significant open space instead of developing a massive shopping mall and luxury homes as currently allowed in the County’s General Plan,” campaign spokesperson Devonna Almagro told The Coast News.
According to the Better Choice campaign, the measure will also provide $56 million in local road improvements and $4.4 million in funding for fire safety and prevention measures.
“We’re proud that the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce joins our strong, countywide coalition ranging from public safety organizations to economic development groups and affordable housing advocates all in support of the Better Choice measure,” Almagro added.
The Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County, San Diego North Economic Development Council and Cal FIRE Fighters of Local 2881 are among those who have shown their support for the Newland Sierra project by endorsing the Better Choice campaign.
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