BSOLANA BEACH — Will another senior care facility make its way to Solana Beach?
This is the question faced by Solana Beach voters this month, as they receive an all-mail ballot soliciting a thumbs up or a thumbs down on Measure B.
If approved, the measure would establish a specific plan overlay for the currently vacant, 2.9-acre lot tucked between Marine View Avenue and the I-5, allowing for a state-licensed senior care facility with up to 99 beds.
The vote would be the first step in the project’s potential route to construction — a “yes” vote would allow the project to go before the City Council for consideration.
The vote is a requirement under Proposition T, a voter-approved initiative that requires a public vote for zoning changes that would alter or up the land-use intensity of a property.
The project’s developer, RhodesMoore LLC, envisions the facility as a craftsman-style lodge, offering 85 rooms and 96 beds. A third of the facility would be for memory care patients.
There would also be a fitness room, salon/spa, art room and library, as well as four outdoor open spaces.
The site operator would also offer programming focused on residents’ individual needs and interests, collaborating with local entities such as the North Coast Repertory Theatre to offer shared programs.
It would be the second assisted living facility in Solana Beach and the first to offer a memory care unit — what RhodesMoore Asset Manager Josh Buller called a “critical component” of the project.
“As we’re looking at the market, that’s where the demand is,” Buller told The Coast News.
RhodesMoore Principal John DeWald said a preliminary estimate of the monthly cost for residents runs between $3,800 and $6,000, “comparable rates to other Assisted Living facilities in the area,” he said.
If approved by voters, the project would still require a final stamp of approval from the City Council and California Coastal Commission. The earliest the project would break ground would be early 2020, with an anticipated opening in early 2022.
Residents have primarily raised concerns about resulting traffic and how it might affect the safety of surrounding neighborhoods — particularly when it comes to the more rural, narrow roadways in the area.
In a map distributed to attendees after an April 2 informational meeting, developers defined the “access route” to the facility as a blue lane traced from Lomas Santa Fe Drive, behind the Vons shopping center and past the Timbers building on Marine View Avenue.
But David Roper, president of the Marine View Homeowners Association, said he and his neighbors are worried that employees and vendors will also use the rural roads to the east and south.
“Delivery trucks, employees, visitors — they’re not familiar with our roads the way we are,” he said, highlighting the neighborhood’s “blind curves.”
A traffic study anticipated the facility would cause an increase of 263 trips to Marine View Avenue and Genevieve Street per day. The current number of combined average daily trips along the two roads is 268, according to the project’s recently-released draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The city’s Circulation Element stipulates that such roads have a capacity of 2,000 vehicles per day.
Therefore, the draft EIR deemed traffic impacts caused by the project as “less than significant.”
Roper has curated a website titled “Keep Solana Safe,” urging residents to vote “no” on the measure.
“Right idea, wrong location,” reads the site.
Roper said he and other neighbors are not against a development on the lot, but are in favor of something that aligns with current zoning — which would accommodate one to two dwelling units per acre.
“We’d love to help seniors, but we cannot handle something that big,” Roper said. “It’s too dangerous.”
The site’s curators — including Roper — also wondered whether the lot is the best location for a senior care facility.
“Would you want Grandma living right next to a loud, dirty freeway with constant air, dust and noise pollution?” they ask.
DeWald said the developer’s sound mitigation efforts “should significantly reduce noise in the building and in the protected outdoor areas to well below acceptable levels.”
The building would accommodate both one- and two-story portions, and be fronted by a landscaped public space off of Marine View Avenue leading up to the building’s entrance.
The western portion of the building, abutting the freeway, would be two stories. A basement parking lot and visitor parking lot would be onsite, with 62 parking spots total.
According to DeWald and images from the EIR, the project will be visible from the freeway. But from the neighborhood?
“You won’t be able to see much,” he said.
With the vote soon underway, DeWald and Buller said they are hoping to give Solana Beach residents a better idea what of senior care is and what it can offer — something they say is easily misunderstood.
“There are a lot of important benefits from these kinds of facilities in terms of quality of life and longevity for seniors,” DeWald said.
The developer has often underscored the need for such a facility locally due to the growing number of residents over the age of 70 in Solana Beach.
In an interview with The Coast News, the developer said that although the project aims to serve the Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe communities, they cannot legally prefer local residents for the facility versus those from other parts of the county, for example.
Mayor Dave Zito said he anticipates the project could come before the council as early as July if the vote goes through — though the election would still have to be certified and the draft EIR would be subject to 45 days of public review.
When asked how the project would move forward if approved by voters, Zito said the council will “make sure if something were to be approved on the site, it will be the best possible project for the city.”
“First, the community must speak,” he said.
A second informational meeting with the facility’s operator will be held on April 16 at 6 p.m., at the Calvary Lutheran Church off of Via de la Valle in Solana Beach.
All ballots will need to be turned in or mailed in to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters’ office by the evening of May 7.