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The 17-acre corner lot on Palomar Airport Road, back left, and Gateway Road in Bressi Ranch gets the OK from the Carlsbad City Council on Tuesday for a mixed-use development of residential and light commercial. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Bressi Ranch housing project gets the OK

CARLSBAD — After a marathon session of presentations, discussions and remarks from the public, city council approved on Tuesday a controversial project in Bressi Ranch.

After nearly four hours and 38 speakers, the council was swayed the mitigation measures for traffic and noise presented by Shea Homes was sufficient to move forward. In a 4-1 vote to amend the Bressi Ranch Master Plan, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher was the lone dissenting voice.

Uptown Bressi, which will be developed by Shea Homes, is a mixed-use project on a 17-acre lot, that was consolidated from four smaller ones on the corner of Palomar Airport Road, El Fuerte Street and Gateway Road.

It will feature 125 homes — 103 townhomes and 22 stacked flats for sale — along with grocery and liquor stores, a pharmacy and dining. Twenty percent of the homes are designated affordable housing.

The residences, according to the plan, will be developed on the western side of the property along Palomar Airport Road and Colt Place.

“There is a demand for retail and a need for additional commercial services,” said Carlsbad Principal Planner Van Lynch.

The project, though, didn’t come without hesitation from most of the council as they peppered Kevin McCook of Shea Homes with questions about parking, traffic flow and noise pollution, to name a few.

In addition, the council worried about air traffic and noise from the nearby McClellan-Palomar Airport, which the project sits just south of flight paths.

Councilman Mark Packard said he was comfortable with the location of the homes, noting the buyer must be responsible for knowing their surroundings including the airport.

As for road traffic, McCook said a 6-foot sound wall would be installed along Palomar Airport Road.

Schumacher, meanwhile, was against the effort to rezone from light industrial to residential/light commercial, which was part of the Bressi Ranch Master Plan and allowed up to a 300,000-square foot development. She said light industrial offers much higher paying jobs in some of the city’s most dominant industries such as technology, life and action sports and green and clean tech.

In addition, with much of the light industrial space being developed and a limited supply of land, Schumacher said the long-term effects would favor an industrial project over mixed use.

“I didn’t find it 100 percent consistent with the Bressi Ranch Master Plan,” she said. “Industry provides a wide variety of jobs. There is only one other potentially large area like this.”

Mayor Matt Hall was concerned with traffic, especially loading trucks such as semitrailers creating congestion in the development and on the streets. He noted there have been “quite a few complaints” from residents in Bressi Ranch over numerous issues within the development.

Councilman Keith Blackburn echoed similar concerns regarding traffic flow and noise. He added he was hesitant because of those concerns and in 10 years will have to look at gridlock.

To mitigate those concerns, Shea Homes plans to install a traffic signal at Gateway road and Finnila Place, a raised median on El Fuerte Street and two chicanes, which are a series of two or more curb extensions on either side of the street, on Gateway Road between Innovation Way and Alicante Road.

Residents, meanwhile, favored the project by nearly a 4:1 ratio at the meeting, while McCook said their outreach tallied support at about 70 percent.

Those in support said this type of housing, which will start at $600,000, is critical for those first-time homebuyers, empty nesters, and provides a need of mid-range housing in the city.

Many multifamily and single-family homes average at least $1 million, which means young professionals cannot afford to purchase homes.

Numerous supporters noted the housing would benefit some of the city’s employers, such as ViaSat, which is less than one mile from the site.

Also, those in support said the need for light commercial is critical in the area as many noted they must drive to opposite ends of the city or a neighboring town to get supplies.

“We have to provide a housing balance,” McCook explained. “This is a long-term game for us. We’re not here to build and flip.”

According to Shea Homes’ application, the plan calls for 91,164-square feet of commercial development including 28,000 for a food market, 16,454 for the pharmacy with a drive thru, 11,650 for a “major tenant” and 35,060 for smaller retail uses. Also incorporated is about 9,160-square feet for outdoor plazas and dining areas.

As for the townhomes, the proposal calls for 21 buildings with four to six units per building and two, three-story buildings for stacked flats with 11 units each. Parking will consist of 491 spaces after Shea Homes was approved for an 11-space (2.2 percent) reduction.

The project also received the support of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, San Diego North Economic Development Council and Circulate San Diego.

1 comment

Scott January 29, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Of the 38 speakers, there were about 5 who were opposed, some submitted documents to the City Clerk. There were about as many who were actual residents of Bressi Ranch or had some skin in the game, that were in favor of the project. There were around 28 speakers who were simply cheerleaders for the project, several of which praised the city council. It appeared as though they threw bodies at it.
Mayor Hall expressed concern about the noise from Palomar Rd to which the Shea representative replied that a 6ft wall would be built that would bring the volume to 45 db. That’s about the level you hear in normal suburban surroundings, however a plane going over head from 3 miles away is approximately 90 db. Imagine a prop plane or Lear Jet on approach at 2000 feet, right across the street. And so the process goes. A council member asks a question, the staff or representative of the applicant says some technical mumbo jumbo and it’s all good. All of which diverted focus from the long term consequences of rezoning to residential commercial from light industrial. In terms of long term tax dollars, it’s no contest in favor of light industrial. In discussion of the topic of tech companies that might consider moving to Carlsbad, strawmen were thrown around such as Google and Amazon. Mayor Hall said that Google would probably put in some futuristic looking building that’s incompatible with the surroundings.
One person that opposed the project who actually lives in Bressi Ranch said that she was not the recipient of any outreach by Shea. Not sure if this means that only certain residents were targeted for support, but the 4:1 ratio of supporters to those who opposed is misleading when the deck is stacked with cheerleaders.
A few of the supporters cited the need for affordable housing in Carlsbad in the hopes that their children who are soon be going to or graduating from college, would be able to live here. The number I heard on the price of the townhomes was around $600K, which is barely affordable for someone making $160K / year. An 8 million dollar home is “affordable” if you’re Mitt Romney or Warren Buffett. The median home price in San Diego County is currently $490K. What does “affordable” mean to you?

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