OCEANSIDE — With two important issues to address during its May 9 meeting, the Oceanside City Council was met with a standing room only crowd of residents ready to voice their opinions.
The first public hearing item involved SOAR or “Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources.” The petition calls for a requirement of voter approval of proposals to change the land use designation or zoning of agricultural or open space land to any other use. This petition gathered 13,000 signatures which were submitted to the city in March.
The council was considering whether to accept the petition and put it on the November ballot. About 20 farmers, homeowners and concerned citizens voiced their opinions for and against. Long-time Oceanside farmers and Scott Ashton from the Chamber of Commerce were against the petition moving forward.
Some said they felt that those gathering the signatures used misleading tactics. Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery agreed, stating he was shown a video of a paid signature collector telling an Oceanside resident Lowery supported SOAR when he does not. Lowery voted to order an additional report on the initiative to be presented to the City Council in 30 days. “We need to follow the research and get facts,” he stated.
Councilman Jack Feller opposes SOAR, stating “it’s wrong to take away property rights from farmers who have been farming 50 to 60 years” in the Morro Hills area of Oceanside. Feller also felt that some of the people who signed the petition are new to Oceanside and “don’t have a skin in the game.”
Councilman Jerome Kern stated that from hearing the resident responses “it struck home with me that I am opposed to ballot box voting.” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez countered by stating that as the rules stand “three members of the council can vote” and change zoning designations.
The council unanimously voted for a 30-day report that would gather more analysis of the fiscal impact, effects on housing, how it fits in with the city’s General Plan and infrastructure. A third party will be selected to conduct the report, which will be presented to the council at its next meeting on June 6.
The second hot-button topic was the proposed Fairfield Inn and Suites on Oceanside Boulevard between Vine and Clementine streets. The proposed project is a 99-room, four story, limited services hotel. The Planning Commission denied approval of the project back in February, citing incapability with land use, noise, traffic, and insufficient parking.
ABA Development LLC, the developer of the property issued an appeal to the decision. The City Council heard amendments to counter the concerns, which included public benefits such as traffic improvements to the signal at Ditmar Street and closing the sidewalk gap on the north side of Oceanside Boulevard to extend from Vine to Clementine. The developers also cited an estimated $2 million in occupancy tax going to the city every year.
More than 30 residents brought signs opposing the “horrible hotel” and approximately 20 residents voiced their opposition to it. Many of the residents, including Jane Marshall, president of the Board of Directors for the Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association, voiced their opposition to changing the zoning from single-family residential to commercial. “This is a discretionary project,” she said. “Keep it residential and create workforce housing which we so desperately need.
After more than an hour of heated opposition, the council voted to approve the project with Lowery and Sanchez the only two in opposition. Feller approved the project as long as the design included a signal into and out of the property on Oceanside Boulevard.
Many left the meeting in anger, chanting “Feller’s Folly” and vowing to start a petition to oppose the Fairfield project.