The Coast News Group
Community Encinitas

Commission gives OK to senior housing

ENCINITAS — Westmont Living’s plans for a massive senior living facility on South El Camino Real received a unanimous endorsement from the Planning Commission, but residents are expected to appeal it to the City Council.

The Planning Commission, after more than two hours of discussion, voted 5-0 in favor of the 85,000-square-foot, 101-bed facility on roughly 3.2 acres of vacant land in South Encinitas near the intersection of Manchester Drive.

South El Camino Real has several similar facilities, including Atria and Somerford Place, which cater to one of the fastest growing segments of the population.

Previously, Westmont proposed building a much larger 110,000-square-foot facility with 132 beds on the same site, but the Planning Commission voted to return the project to the developer to redesign it, after residents and commissioners expressed concern about the size and design of the building.

Still, residents complained that the project was too large for the surrounding neighborhood would create noise, impact their views and increase traffic.

“We would not have bought the houses that we all bought knowing there was going to be … a giant commercial building directly next to us,” said Richard Markell whose home neighbors the property. “What we saw here tonight was a sales job, a time share of a sales job.”

The developer, representatives of the property owner and supporters of the project argued that the project represented a fair compromise between the desires of the existing neighbors and the property owner.

“We’ve heard the comments and compromised and returned with a substantially better project that strikes the balance between the existing community and the allowed uses per the zone,” said Matt Davis, who represented the property owner, Richard Lux.

Bob Trettin, a land-use consultant representing the developer, said he sympathized with neighbors, but said the developer is required to abide by the conditions set out by the commission, which were meant to allay those concerns.

“There’s not going to be noise, there’s not going to be traffic,” Trettin said. “From my perspective, I could see the neighbors’ point and saying ‘I don’t believe you,’ but the bottom line is we are mandated to honor the commitments we have made.”

The Planning Commission added several additional commitments, including limiting deliveries to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., adding vines and other plants to screen the project’s retaining wall, adding a directional sign at the main entrance and replanting several Torrey pines that have to be torn down to accommodate the creation of another lane on El Camino Real.

Residents after the meeting, however, vowed that they would appeal the decision to the City Council, which can override the Planning Commission’s decisions.