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Marja Acres
The Carlsbad City Council approved the Marja Acres development along El Camino Real and Kelly Drive. The project consists of 294 units, 46 of which will be affordable residences for seniors. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad approves Marja Acres development project

CARLSBAD — For the past four years, Marja Acres development proposal has been a hot topic for residents on Kelly Drive and the surrounding neighborhood.

During its Nov. 3 meeting, the Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved the project. Marja Acres, which was proposed by New Urban West, calls for 294 townhomes with 46 affordable units for seniors on the 20.65-acre site.

Additionally, the stretch of El Camino Real between Cannon Road and Tamarack Avenue was exempted from the level of service standard due to a number of factors.

The project also has 10,000-square feet of space for commercial use. One other condition from the council was for NUW to continue soil testing to ensure new requirements are met.

“Marja Acres will help the city of Carlsbad alleviate its housing shortage by delivering hundreds of affordable and attainably-priced homes set amid acres of parks and open space, all conveniently located along a primary transportation corridor with transit routes and bus stops,” said Jonathan Frankel, vice president of forward planning for New Urban West. “We are very grateful to the Carlsbad City Council for their overwhelming support.”

One of the big concerns about the project, though, centers on traffic-control mitigation and specifically the deficiency of El Camino Real.

Jeff Murphy, the city’s community development director, said the stretch of road between Cannon Road and Tamarack Avenue was requested for an exemption due to new state laws and regulations coming in place after much of initial scoping work was conducted.

New Urban West included those components along with following the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) methodologies.

Marja Acres
The 294-unit Marja Acres development was unanimously approved by the Carlsbad City Council during its Nov. 3 meeting. This rendering shows a number of affordable housing units for seniors. Rendering courtesy of New Urban West

“The applicant was still made aware their analysis needs to follow TIA guidelines,” Murphy said of the transportation impact analysis. “Concerns were also raised by net traffic trips.”

He said the numbers using the SANDAG model showed 901 average daily trips, which is far fewer than originally discussed. Residents, though, also spoke about concerns with the traffic along Ranch and Kelly streets, the U-turn at the El Camino Real and Kelly Street intersection.

Tracy Seemann, who lives in the neighborhood, said she and others worked with New Urban West and Frankel about those concerns.

“In my opinion, NUW made and continues to make good faith agreements,” she said, speaking in favor of the project. “The traffic issues are something council members must address. The city needs to be prepared to take care of this issue down the road.”

As for the senior living component, Jonathan Frankel said subsidies will be given to those residents for rideshare and “100%” free transit passes. New Urban West will also restrict the new units from being short-term vacation rentals.

Also, Murphy dispelled rumors of no visitor parking. In fact, he said, 101 spaces will be available, although the city code does not require visitor parking for senior rentals.

Seemann, her group and others, also worked with NUW on some of the design features. New Urban West scrapped plans for a walkway connecting the development to the neighborhood on Kelly Street, townhomes roof decks were removed along with NUW building a wall atop the ridge for more privacy.

As for the council, all saw the need for more housing, especially affordable units, thus gave their approval. All said the development was needed to help working professionals and future generations more options to live in the city.

Erik Bruvold, chief executive officers of the San Diego North Economic Development Council, put it succinctly, saying every 4.5 people are competing for one home.

“The truth is, a lot of the issues brought up are not under our control … largely because of Sacramento,” Mayor Matt Hall said. “I appreciate the young speakers asking for, and begging, for a place to invest in.”

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