City sets aside habitat land

Land will allow  Mission Cove  affordable housing project to move forward

OCEANSIDE — City Council voted to set aside and help purchase 7.3 acres of land for habitat preservation in order to allow the Mission Cove affordable housing project to move forward on Feb 5.

City Council approved the motion 4-1, with Councilman Jerry Kern casting the no vote and having some sharp words on why he does not support funding the land purchase.

“This project has been pecked to death by a bunch of ducks,” Kern said. “The seven acres is a good idea but I don’t see continuing to fund this project.”

Councilmen Gary Felien and Jack Feller questioned the land purchase, but voted in favor of it.

City Manager Steve Jepsen said the land purchase is a win, win for the city that allows the affordable housing project to move forward and also sets aside land for present and future habitat land mitigation.

“We’re reinvesting in Oceanside,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “The wildlife corridor is absolutely essential. The housing project is also a very critical project.”

The Mission Cove affordable housing project is located on Mission Avenue within the wildlife corridor planning zone, which allows north to south wildlife movement within the city.

Development in the environmentally sensitive area requires that half an acre of land be set aside for habitat for every one acre of land that is developed.

Plans for the 14.5-acre housing project began just before the requirement to set aside land was adopted in 2000.

At that time the city determined habitat land to satisfy the mitigation requirement should be city owned land.

Tuley Canyon, which is owned by the Water Utilities Department, was identified as a site for habitat land mitigation.

“Habitat land mitigation is relatively new,” Margery Pierce, housing and neighborhood services director, said. “Things can change in development. We’re stuck with it.”

National Community Renaissance, the project developer, asked the city to match half the cost to buy the required 7.3 acres of land.

The land will be purchased for $350,000, which breaks down to $175,000 in city general funds and a $175,000 payment from National Community Renaissance. The sale will offset the Water Utilities Department cost of originally buying the land.

The total Tuley Canyon site is 144 acres. Some of the site has been developed for water reservoir facilities and other areas of the site are earmarked for future water facilities development.

City staff will access the property to determine the best location for the 7.3 acres of habitat preservation for the Mission Cove project and additional acreage for habitat land mitigation for future building projects.

Pierce said $14 million to close the funding gap for the Mission Cove project would continue to come in over the four building phases of project.

City Council will give final approval for the project Feb. 19. Site grading will begin in May.

 

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