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Tentative map, plan approved for Emerald Ridge development

OCEANSIDE — In a 4-1 vote, City Council adopted a resolution approving a tentative map and development plan for a controversial townhome development at its April 24 meeting.

The proposed Emerald Ridge project will be located on the south side of Sunset Drive east of Sky Haven Lane.

The development will include a 48-unit townhome complex with recreation areas, walls and fencing, private streets and landscaping on a currently 7.78-acre vacant parcel.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project’s tentative map and development plan in January.

Some of the commissioners expressed concerns regarding the project, including its potential traffic impact, architectural compatibility and potential greenhouse gas emissions, but noted the project is consistent with the site’s land use and zoning designations.

Oceanside and Vista residents stood in opposition to the Emerald Ridge project. Photo by Samantha Taylor

Barbara De La Torre appealed the project later that month, highlighting several issues with the project to which the City responded.

One of the issues according to the appeal letter was the Emerald Ridge project would be a non-age-restricted community surrounded by four 55-plus age-restricted developments.

“The residents are rightly concerned about what, especially the teenagers and young adults, at the condos will do for recreation,” the appeal letter states.

The letter suggests that in “crowded conditions” without a pool or a workout room, “pre-teens and teens will resort to skateboarding, bike riding, street traffic into the surrounding neighborhoods.”

“They rightly worry about their parks being overtaken (Pacifica), drug dealing, trash, noise, etc.,” the letter states.

City staff responded by stating there are no restrictions within the city that would prevent the development of non-age-restricted residential dwelling units at the site, and pointed out there are seven non-age-restricted communities in addition to the four age-restricted ones that surround the site.

The appeal letter also wasn’t keen on the possibility of the condos being rented out to more tenants rather than inhabited by owners, and wanted the owner-to-renter ratio to be addressed.

“Renters are notorious for not having the same care for their living spaces, as do owners,” the letter states. “Neighborhoods that have a high percentage of renters tend to deteriorate the surroundings.”

According to the city, there are no regulations that would require owner occupancy of residential units, which means the city cannot mandate unit owners to live there.

Other issues the letter noted included traffic safety, parking and geotechnical concerns at the site, but the city found the appellant did not provide “any basis to warrant overturning the Planning Commission’s decision” based on those concerns.

The project’s preliminary geotechnical evaluation identified two separate, ancient landslides on the project site.

Development will not happen on Landslide 1 in the southwest corner of the site while about half of the units and a realigned portion of Sunset Drive would be developed over Landslide 2.

The evaluation recommends landslide stabilization consisting of over-excavation and re-compaction, construction of a shear key and installation of a subdrain, according to the staff report.

Additionally, the city provided council a list of “public benefits” the project would have, including realignment of Sunset Drive to a previously dedicated 84-foot wide public right-of-way, construction of a new storm sewer within Sunset Drive, installation of a traffic control signal at the intersection of Sunset and Sky Haven Lane and construction of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on each side of Sky Haven.

City Council held a public hearing about the project at its April 24 meeting.

Council chambers were packed with residents from the surrounding communities of Emerald Ridge, including both Oceanside and Vista residents, who opposed the project.

Councilman Chris Rodriguez noted his strong advocacy of private property rights for supporting the project in addition to his desire to address the housing crisis.

“The way to improve the housing crisis is we need more supply, and we have a private property owner that I wish came before us with double the amount of units than what you’ve proposed,” he said, addressing a representative of property owner Paul Garrett.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez was the only member who opposed the project, citing her concerns about landslides on the site.

“This project just does not fit this community,” she said.

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