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A rendering of the proposed assisted living facility between Reed Road and Wedgewood Avenue in Escondido. Courtesy photo
A rendering of the proposed assisted living facility between Reed Road and Wedgewood Avenue in Escondido. Courtesy photo
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Listening to neighbors, Escondido rejects assisted living facility

ESCONDIDO — After hearing from dozens of neighbors, the City Council narrowly rejected a proposed 45-bed residential care facility between Reed Road and Wedgewood Avenue. 

The Planning Commission was first to deny the project by a 3-2 vote in April. The applicant appealed the decision, which brought the final decision in front of the City Council on Aug. 16 – where the project was also rejected in a 3-2 vote, upholding the Planning Commission’s previous action. 

According to city staff, the applicant, John Beery, on behalf of the property owner, Leslie Wang, had requested a conditional use permit to operate a licensed residential care facility for more than seven residents, otherwise known as an assisted living facility.

The facility would have included three separate buildings — each building housing 15 residents for a total of 45 residents — for a combined size of 21,190 square feet. The facility would be accessible on Wedgewood Avenue.

The 4.27-acre property is already developed with an existing single-family residence, built in 1992 and accessed via Reed Road, that currently operates as a licensed residential care facility with no more than six residents. 

Planning Commissioners were concerned about onsite and delivery traffic circulation affecting the neighborhood and the well-being of an old oak tree on the property line. Commissioners also felt the applicant had not submitted enough information demonstrating the project’s design.

Through the applicant’s appeal process, staff worked with the applicant to address these issues by requiring a condition of approval requiring the applicant to submit a detailed letter of operations outlining the frequency, hours and nature of deliveries before receiving a business license and an arborist report detailing the health of the tree and ways to protect it. The applicant also submitted more renderings of the project.

Still, surrounding residents remained unconvinced that the proposed assisted living facility would fit well within their neighborhood.

“We’re going to be adversely impacted by this facility,” said Kamilah Brown, whose family lives on the Maxie Place cul-de-sac at the end of Wedgewood Avenue. “We’re going to be boxed in – there’s only one way in and out.”

Brown noted the community already struggles with heavy traffic from nearby Orange Glen High School, Hidden Valley Middle School, Oak Hill Memorial Park and construction at Mountain View Park. 

Kent Smith, who lives on Jessica Lane across from the proposed facility, is also concerned about being blocked in by the facility’s traffic. 

“We don’t want it next to us,” he said. “Come take a look at this place before you drop a facility this size in a one way in, one way out area. It needs to be someplace on the outskirts of a neighborhood. This neighborhood just doesn’t fit.”

Ivan Flores, associate planner with the city, noted that the city’s General Plan policy encourages residential care facilities to be located within residential districts, not in commercial or industrial zones. 

“They’re meant for residential areas,” Flores told the City Council. 

Wang, the property owner, said she has pursued helping older adults with her residential care facilities after wanting to help her grandmother without sending her away.

Wang also owns Solaris Senior Living Community in Poway. 

“We take care of our elderly,” Wang said. 

Wang said the proposed facility would remain as quiet as possible in response to some neighbors’ concerns about increased noise from the property. 

Mayor Dane White, Deputy Mayor Joe Garcia and Councilmember Consuelo Martinez voted to reject the project. 

Both Garcia and Martinez noted the project’s applicant should have conducted more community outreach. 

“Seeing the response from the community coming out to speak against this leads me to believe that (community outreach) hasn’t happened,” Garcia said.

Councilmembers Mike Morasco and Christian Garcia, who voted to approve the project, fear they will open the property to dense housing development if the assisted living facility project isn’t approved first.

“Neighbors need to understand that because of the rules and regulations from the state, someone could come in there, divide it up into 8 to 16 single-family units, or they could put eight units with two ADUs on each of those properties,” Morasco said. “You could be looking at 24 different homes.”

Morasco was referring to the state’s density bonus law, which allows for density higher than what the city permits with the inclusion of affordable housing, and Senate Bill 9, a law allowing homeowners to split their property to create up to four homes on an existing single-family parcel. 

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