The Coast News Group
Wermers Properties
Wermers Properties intends to develop a 72 unit apartment complex at the corner of N Vulcan and La Costa Avenues. Blueprints were provided to residents by the City of Encinitas. Courtesy rendering
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La Costa corridor residents brace for slew of developments

ENCINITASーAnother 72 unit development has been announced for Northern Leucadia at the corner of La Costa and North Vulcan avenues, prompting fierce opposition from residents fearful of the project’s potential impact on the area’s outdated traffic infrastructure.

The complex is one of five large developments slated to break ground in coming years in the corridor intersecting La Costa Avenue, North Coast Highway and Interstate 5.

Originally the location of Matteson’s Florist and home of the locally known “Jesus Christ is Lord” sign, the property was purchased by Wermers Properties, a San Diego based multi-family real estate developer.

According to Wermers, the development will include a total of 72 for-lease apartment homes, 111 parking spaces, a game plaza, clubroom, gym, outdoor entertaining spaces and a pet spa spanning a total of 97,909 square feet at 1967 N. Vulcan Ave.

Of the 72 units, 60 will be “market-rate” and 12 will be “low-income” residential units as per state requirements (The concept design can be found here).

The property has yet to be seen by the city’s Planning, Traffic and Safety Commission or receive Coastal Development and Design Review permits. The proposal is still in the community outreach and development phase, seeking input from local residents at a Citizen Participation Program (CPP) meeting on Nov. 20.

Darcy Lyons, organizer of Leucadia Cares, a resident-run group concerned with the development, attended Wermers’ CPP meeting as well as an additional meeting on Nov. 16 between Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Councilmember Tony Kranz and over 60 concerned residents.

Citizen-run groups such as Leucadia Cares and NOW Leucadia are fearful the region’s upcoming developments will overwhelm current traffic infrastructure. As is, La Costa is a two-lane road without sidewalks or adjacent parking. Residents fear a consistent influx of traffic will cause an unsafe environment for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

“We’re not opposed to properties being developed more densely,” Lyons said. “This is about whether or not this can be done safely from a traffic standpoint.”

According to city planning documents released to Leucadia NOW, Wermers said the development requires a four-lane road for safe transportation, however, the City of Encinitas has neither plans nor funding to widen La Costa.

Kranz, District 1 representative, acknowledged the challenges facing his district and the city’s lack of ability to curtail developer projects.

“Nobody in Encinitas is thrilled about the idea of additional development, largely because it seems that our infrastructure still leaves a lot to be desired,” Kranz said. “We are not keeping up as a city with all the development that has taken place since incorporation, so the frustration is understandable.”

According to Kranz, laws and regulations drafted by the state legislature remove local authority, hindering the city council from managing and limiting projects beyond legal parameters.

“The state isn’t concerned with the infrastructure needs Leucadia may have,” Kranz said. “They are much more dedicated to seeing the housing itself built.”

State-passed legislation, such as SB-330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, prohibits local agencies from disapproving, or conditioning approval of any development providing low or moderate-income housing provided the project remains up to zoning ordinances and general plan land use.

“The reality is, the system has been somewhat rigged in a way that makes it very difficult for a city council to stop legal developments from happening,” Kranz said. “It’s difficult for people to get used to how hard it is to stop some of these projects and I’m right there with them.”

During the Nov. 16 virtual meeting with Kranz and Blakespear, residents asked why the developer can’t be forced to pay for updates to infrastructure.

Kranz acknowledged residents’ frustrations but noted there are established legal precedents limiting a developer’s financial contributions toward traffic mitigation. Specifically, developers may only be responsible for infrastructure immediately adjacent to their properties.

According to Kranz, while the 1967 Vulcan apartments aren’t enough to singularly overwhelm the La Costa corridor’s infrastructure, the cumulative impacts of all nearby developments may, committing him to coordinate traffic mitigation measures between individual developers’ future properties to benefit the corridor as a whole.

For now, groups such as Leucadia Cares and Leucadia NOW have pledged to remain actively involved in all La Costa corridor CPP meetings in an attempt to relay residents’ infrastructure and construction concerns to developers.

At Wermers’ CPP meeting on Nov. 20, over 60 residents expressed their frustrations ranging from the lack of appropriated parking spaces, adjacent infrastructure and public safety.

“We started to see some really big red flags in developer’s plans and thought ‘we’ve got to get a group of neighbors together,’” Lyons said. “People want to fight this so we’re here to help.”

Lyons recommends any resident looking to be informed on the changes facing Leucadia to get involved by emailing [email protected] or visiting NOW Leucadia.

Wermers Properties did not respond to a request for comment.