ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Planning Commission voted 7-0 to nix expanding an elder residential care center from six residents to 12 at its Aug. 13 meeting.
Located at 2512 Heather Place on the city’s east side, over half a dozen of those who live on the cul-de-sac street on which Crossroads Home Care is located turned out to ask the commission to shoot down the plan. The residents cited concerns ranging from lack of parking, noise coming from and around the current facility and lack of staffing to adequately deal with the needs of its residents.
The request by Crossroads included a proposed 1,656 square feet, one-story addition to the existing 2,450-square-foot facility. It would have increased the number of bedrooms from four to nine, as well.
Nearly every person who spoke during the public comment section of the proposal, as well as all of the Planning Commission members who commented, voiced general support of the ethos behind the project. The logistics, however, were another story.
Resident Ron Shook, who rents a room in the neighborhood, noted his respect for Crossroads owner Hamid Montazer, calling him a “good man,” while praising the project’s motive. But he said that the management of the facility does not work there around the clock and is not there at night to hear the loud noises or see other neighborhood disruptions.
“He does what he has to do and he takes care of what has to do,” said Shook. “But now, I could have called many times, but I didn’t want to start no problems in the neighborhood because I just rent a room.”
Shook went on to describe seeing one of the residents, an elderly woman with dementia, wandering around in the street outside at night saying “take me home” and another woman repeatedly “hollering for help in that house,” which kept him up in the middle of the night.
“It is a business, it does make money from these people,” said Shook. “I’m proud that it does what it does, but the neighborhood is not designed for this kind of setup. That’s a commercial business and it’s not residential.”
Montazer countered criticism by saying that locking people inside the house is not an option.
“They’re allowed to exit, but we follow and make sure they’re safe and their welfare and well-being is observed,” said Montazer. “And what noise? We do not run an asylum. People who have dementia are not noisy … A household kid generates more noise than an elderly, so the noises they’re talking about, I do not understand where it’s coming from.”
Further, Montazer said he believed that the facility is not a business, but a residence. And he said that the caregivers employed there would not clog up the street with their parked cars because they all get rides to and from work and mostly live around the clock at the facility.
The counterargument, though, was not enough to sway the Planning Commission. In a highly residential area with a lack of parking, further encroached by it sitting on a cul-de-sac road, members determined that an expansion of Crossroads was a road too far for now.
Planning Commission member James Spann said that it came down to maintaining the “character of the neighborhood.”
“I think what you’re doing right now is great,” said Spann. “When you start doubling the size, you are taking a residential neighborhood and you’re putting a full-blown business in there. And it is a business, it’s a home occupation, technically.”
Just seconds later, the Planning Commission handed down its unanimous vote against the project.
The Commission also voted 7-0 in favor of a 145-unit, four-story affordable senior housing complex in downtown Escondido across the street from the Escondido Transit Center. It is set to be located at 220 N. Quince Street at the corner of N Quince St. and W. Valley Parkway with 142 parking spots below the edifice on its ground floor. That corner currently contains the business Bekins Park & Crate Services.
The Quince Street property will now go before the City Council in the near future for a vote. Crossroads can appeal the Planning Commission decision to the City Council, or a council member could bring it before his or her colleagues.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news ouetlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.