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HOAs respond to affordable housing project

SOLANA BEACH — An organization that represents condominium associations on South Sierra Avenue is not planning to challenge an affordable housing complex approved by City Council last month.

“We won’t take any action against what the city did,” said Tom Ryan, chairman of the Condominium Organization of South Sierra Avenue, a nonprofit group formed in 1988 to “make local government aware of the particular interests, concerns and consensus of the community.”

“As far as I’m concerned, that issue is over,” Ryan said. “I could be wrong but that would be up to the individual homeowners associations.”

City officials worked with Hitzke Development Corporation for about three years to build a 10-unit, mixed-use development that would satisfy a legal requirement to replace low-income housing lost when a mobile home park was closed more than two decades ago.

Most residents said they support affordable units but opposed the project on a city-owned parking lot in the 500 block of South Sierra because it is too big for the site and presents some safety concerns.

Ryan said COOSSA representatives and a few dozen residents from Seascape Sur met about a week before the April 23 City Council meeting to review the plans.

He said after 90 minutes of discussion and opinions being expressed he abstained from a unanimous decision to send a letter to the city voicing concerns about the configuration of the building and the lack of an area where children could safely play.

“COOSSA didn’t take a position of opposition,” Ryan said. “There were a lot of different opinions about whether the project was worthy of support or not worthy of support. But we had concerns.”

He said the issue of legal action was “raised as a general topic but not really discussed.”

During the April 23 meeting, City Councilwoman Lesa Heebner noted most of the opposition to the project came from residents of Seascape Sur, which is across the street from the proposed development.

“Everybody else didn’t send in anything,” Heebner said. “Their silence says a lot to me.”

In a letter dated April 24, Seascape Sur withdrew from COOSSA, which until then represented about 895 units and 1,400 voters.

Bill Gifford, president of the Seascape Sur homeowners association, said his group is meeting the week of May 12.

He said he would prefer to wait until after that to comment.

While there was no shortage of people who had concerns with the project, not everyone opposes it.

Veronica Seay, a 34-year Solana Beach resident and member of the board of the North County League of Women Voters, said state law requires all communities to provide their fair share of affordable housing and this development would be a “small step” for Solana Beach to meet that obligation.

“We need to remind ourselves that local residents of Solana Beach may at some time in their lives need to find affordable housing for either the short or the long term,” Seay said. “They might be elderly, disabled, underemployed or returning veterans who shouldn’t have to leave town in order to find housing.”

Former Mayor Margaret Schlesinger, who lived in that neighborhood for 40 years, also supports the complex even though she describes herself as “a fanatic on preserving open space.”

She reminded residents about the opposition to condominiums being built along South Sierra, “and we learned to live with them,” she said.

Ginger Hitzke, president of Hitzke Development Corporation, said she plans to continue working with nearby residents to address their concerns.

“I’m hopeful when it’s built it will add to the appearance of the street,” Ryan said.