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Vista council gives final approval on mixed-use rules

VISTA — The City Council gave final approval to rules intended to increase standards for residential projects in mixed-use areas, while keeping incentives for developers along North Santa Fe Drive.

The council also allowed two projects on North Santa Fe Drive that were going through the planning process to continue operating under the current rules, changed the parcels at the corners of North Santa Fe Drive and Bobier Drive to commercial only, and extended the area where the new rules affect to one block north of Bobier Drive.

“The only thing worse than big government, is when government moves the ball on you, all the time, and you feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the ball Lucy is holding,” Councilwoman Amanda Rigby said, regarding the projects that were still being planned.

The original rules were designed for projects that combine commercial and residential uses on one property, addressing parking, setbacks, landscaping, and building height.

The standards were intended to give developers more incentive to build here, and create more of a walkable, urban neighborhood.

Many of the projects that were actually built in the area were residential only, however.

Critics, like Rigby, said developers were taking advantage of what was intended to be mixed-use, to build denser residential projects with lower standards than would be required in other parts of the city, in what came to be known as the “mixed-use loophole.”

The new rules affect these residential-only projects, applying the same rules that apply in other residential areas. Projects that include commercial space would not be subject to the new rules.

The council also chose not to apply these new rules along North Santa Fe Drive, and created an “overlay zone” with four story buildings (compared with three stories in other parts of the city), setback 10 feet from the street and other buildings (compared with up to 20 feet), with nearly half as many parking spaces required for apartments.

The decision came 4-1, with Rigby ultimately opposing the lower standards along North Santa Fe Drive.