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Planning Commission approves memory care housing on Carlsbad border

SAN MARCOS — A new assisted living center for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory care needs received a 7-0 affirmative vote at the San Marcos Planning Commission’s July 15 meeting.

Owned by the company Artis Senior Living, the 64-bed and nearly 40,000-square-foot facility would sit on just over 2 acres of land at the intersection of Rancho Santa Fe Road and San Elijo Road on the west side of San Marcos bordering Carlsbad near the San Marcos Creek. Artis has 45 facilities throughout the U.S., with the West Coast currently eyed as an expansion area.

The facility will have 46 parking spots for guests and will employ 26 people.

Terry Mathew, who spoke on behalf of Artis in her capacity as a project planner for the San Marcos land use planning firm Consultants Collaborative Inc., described Artis as a “premier” operator of senior care facilities.

“They have the highest quality of memory care and individually designed programs with compassion and dedication to each resident’s comfort and needs,” Mathew said. “I know we’ve all heard and read so much about Alzheimer’s and I know there’s also a very unique need for people with Alzheimer’s when they can no longer be cared for by family members, so this will be a unique facility to address their needs of loss of memory.”

After Mathew’s presentation, San Marcos Planning Commissioner Christopher Carroll expressed consternation about potential safety issues of the residents, asking if fire departments would have access to the facility. Mathew said the facility would have an emergency left-turn access lane for first responders to enter into the property.

“In addition to that, you have instituted an organization that has on-site staffing to handle the residents and responses to falls,” Mathew said.

Planning Commission Chairman Kevin Norris also raised the issue of residential safety at the facility, noting that the intersection of Rancho Santa Fe Road and San Elijo Road is heavily trafficked with cars moving at hasty speeds. He then asked if any type of alert system existed for residents who leave the premises.

“Each door is alarmed with a delay, which is why care partners will escort them,” Mathew responded. “And there are other spaces, the community center and outdoor spaces for people to go to that can be managed and where people won’t necessarily to wander off. There’s also key pin access and alarms, so I think Artis has done as much as they physically can to secure the perimeter.”

In the domain of affordability, Planning Commissioner Kevin Oleksy questioned whether Artis would make any of its units available for low-income individuals. Rick Bell, a consultant for Artis, said the company’s business model only exists in the private space for now.

“My understanding is that there’s two reasons,” Bell said. “One, the economic model that we have as you’ll notice they’re all private units and we believe that’s in the best interest of the resident. Secondly, my understanding is that the state has a limited number of subsidized beds that are available and they’re very difficult to get. But really honestly, it’s mostly the former in terms of the economics.”

According to Artis’ presentation documents, units at the facility will cost a range $5,251 to $7,632 per month for its residents. And yet even as a for-profit facility, according to Planning Commission staff report documents, San Marcos would run Artis at an economic deficit.

“By developing the project site with an assisted living facility …  the economic output of the City would be approximately $1,890,349 less than if the property was developed with a light industrial project,” reads the staff report. “Direct employment created under the current Light Industrial designation would typically be more technology-oriented jobs that generally have higher wages, as opposed to lower wage service jobs which are typically associated with an assisted living facility.”

Receiving a zoning designation change from light industrial to senior residential from the Planning Commission, the facility now awaits the approval of the full City Council.

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