OCEANSIDE — The City Council has unanimously denied an appeal of a proposal to build 19 single-family homes off Avocado Road in the Fire Mountain neighborhood, upholding the Planning Commission’s previous decision to approve the project.
The Avocado Road development will subdivide a 3.43-acre site at 1448 Avocado Road, formerly known as the Cyclops Farms, into 21 lots with 19 single-family homes for sale. A majority of the homes will feature five bedrooms with either two- or three-car garages plus one three-bedroom home with a two-car garage set aside as affordable housing for a “very low income” household.
Though the site’s base density allows for up to 15 units under city code, developer Rincon Homes has invoked state density bonus law by reserving one affordable unit — requesting four additional units plus several concessions and waivers regarding lot size, setbacks, lot coverage and parking.
The project is unpopular with several neighbors who fear the project will exacerbate traffic, noise pollution, stormwater drainage issues and other problems and ruin the rural character of the neighborhood.
Leslie Rush, who lives directly across Avocado Road from the project, filed an appeal against it following Planning Commission’s approval in September. Her appeal lists several issues with the project, claiming the city inappropriately granted the project an exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act.
“This builder is responsible for Fire Mountain’s destruction,” Rush said at the Dec. 6 council meeting.
The city responded to each of her complaints, noting the project is consistent with the city’s applicable general plan designation and state law.
Rush claims the city did not properly study the project’s impact on additional traffic in the area paired with several other recently approved projects in the Fire Mountain neighborhood that are expected to generate approximately 353 new homes.
According to the city, the project did not generate nearly enough traffic to merit a local transportation study.
Principal Planner Manuel Baeza said Ocean Creek, a 295-unit apartment project approved last year, performed a cumulative study of the area’s traffic that included the Grandview Residential 26-lot project and found no significant traffic impacts would be created. Together, the two projects account for 321 or about 91% of the new homes slated for Fire Mountain.
A noise study was also performed that found the project’s temporary construction and operational noise impacts wouldn’t be significant enough to require a CEQA analysis.
Other issues cited included increasing fire hazards due to a concession allowed under state density bonus that waives the developer’s requirement to underground all utilities, plus the lack of a fire evacuation plan.
The city noted that an evacuation plan is not warranted because the area is not located in a very high fire hazard severity zone, and that the fire department has already approved conditions on the project. Staff added that the project would enhance emergency access by constructing a roadway connection between Avocado Road and French Court, thus providing a second access route for residents of French Court and California Street.
Rush and other residents also fear the project will worsen stormwater issues.
“The consequences are real — this will contribute to an existing significant impact and therefore cannot be utilized exemption under CEQA,” Rush said. “The repercussion of errant stormwater flows is far reaching, causing profound damage to homes in its path and impacting ocean water quality.”
In response, staff and the developer pointed out the project will include a stormwater basin to collect stormwater flows and improve current conditions.
“Under existing conditions, stormwater runs offsite unchecked,” Baeza said. “This project is going to manage drainage in an acceptable and adequate way.”
Many residents also fear how local traffic generated by the project will endanger walkers along Avocado Road. They note the road is narrow, allows for parking on both sides and lacks sidewalks.
The project proposes a sidewalk along its Avocado Road boundaries, which will improve safety for pedestrians, However, many residents have mixed feelings about adding sidewalks to the community for fear of losing its rural character.
Rush also suggested that the project is causing the eviction and displacement of the family currently living in the existing single-family home on the property.
“The reality is this project has displaced three families from affordable homes for properties listed for sale at over $1 million,” Rush said.
According to Dan Niebaum of the Lightfoot Planning Group, who represents the developer, the family currently living in the home, which will be demolished along with a few existing accessory buildings, will get first dibs on the project’s reserved affordable unit. He said the family intends to purchase the home.
“It would be an upgrade for them,” he said.
Housing and Neighborhood Services Director Leilani Hines estimated that the sales price for the affordable home would be around $100,000.
Baeza also reiterated that no one is being displaced from their homes due to the project.
Though unanimously approved, Councilmember Eric Joyce noted he is concerned about pedestrian walkability in the neighborhood, and Mayor Esther Sanchez said she wasn’t a fan of the state laws that allow for increased density, concessions and waivers.
“I think we ought to be billing the state of California and each of the people who voted for these laws that are basically destroying our communities,” she said, noting that the law doesn’t appear to be creating more affordable housing as intended.