ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission approved a Greek orthodox church’s proposal to build another senior apartment complex on its property along Manchester Avenue.
The Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church Senior Apartments project will add 61 units — 49 market-rate and 12 low income — split into two separate buildings. The apartments will be located on the same parcel as the church and its existing 30 senior apartments.
Nine of the affordable units will remain affordable permanently, while the remaining three will be deed restricted as affordable for 55 years.
As a by-right, density bonus project, the church could have applied for up to 81 units, but only proposed 61. The church also requested a waiver to reduce the parking standards to half-a-space per unit, offering only 31 parking spaces instead of 74 base parking requirements.
Additionally, the applicant requested an incentive allowing them rather to relocate some utilities rather than underground them.
Commissioners unanimously approved the project 4-0, except for Kevin Doyle, who recused himself due to a conflict of interest.
Some concerns about the project from residents included traffic issues and environmental impacts.
Former Mayor Sheila Cameron feared the impact on the local wildlife, noting trees in the project area are potentially home to over 100 bird species.
Although the project will cut down about 13 trees, the developer plans to replant even more and won’t cut down the mature pine trees on the property.
Larry Pell, a resident of the existing senior apartment homes owned by the church, was concerned about how the road connected within the different segments of the overall property and traffic flow into and out of the property. Pell suggested that a traffic signal be constructed as part of the project.
The project already proposes to extend the raised median along Manchester Avenue and construct a southbound right turn deceleration lane at the project driveway, along with other curb, gutter and streetscape improvements in the area.
Even though the commission had little discretion to force any significant changes to the by-right density bonus project, most of the commissioners liked what the church – famous for its annual Greek festival – had proposed.
Commissioner Susan Sherod appreciated that the project proposes 75% native landscaping instead of the required 50%. Though she initially had some concerns about the project cutting down certain trees, particularly crape myrtle trees which are great for birds, she was satisfied to find out that more crape myrtle trees will be planted elsewhere on site.
“There’s just a lot to like,” Sherod said.
Commissioner Chris Ryan also liked the project, though she noted she would like more blue accents to provide breaks between the all-white Greek architectural design that intends to match the church.
Commissioner Steve Dalton also liked the project.
“I really like that they’ve gone above and beyond what they’re required to do,” Dalton said.
Though in the end he voted for approval, Commissioner Bob Prendergast was disappointed by the number of affordable units proposed, instead preferring to make all of the units affordable.