OCEANSIDE — Airport community residents and volunteers overseeing a local nature preserve fear impacts from the Eddie Jones project, a proposed massive warehouse facility off state Route 76, will disrupt a 2,000-acre corridor of habitat restoration efforts.
The Eddie Jones Warehouse, Manufacturing and Distribution Facility project proposes to demolish a vacant industrial building and construct a 568,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center. The site, a 31.2-acre plot at 25 Eddie Jones Way, is off Benet Road just north of the Oceanside Municipal Airport and adjacent to several residential developments in the airport community.
The project would include 590 parking spaces for employees and visitors, 60 truck trailer stalls and a total of 114 truck terminals at loading bays on the north and south sides of the building. The warehouse’s heavy truck traffic would filter through Benet Road, while its Alex Road access point would be reserved for passenger vehicles only.
Airport community residents have been attending recent Oceanside City Council and Planning Commission meetings to voice their concerns over the project – everything from noise and environmental pollution to increased traffic and emergency response times. Many also fear the heavy truck traffic will inhibit safe fire evacuation in the community, which is located in a high-risk fire zone.
A handful of residents in Wanis View Estates, a housing development directly adjacent to the project site, have also come forward with concerns for the nature preserve located within the neighborhood.
When Wanis View Estates was constructed in the early 2000s, the developer agreed with the city and county to set up the 77-acre nature preserve to mitigate the construction damage left on the land.
Over the last 20 years, volunteers, restoration experts and habitat managers – along with over $1 million in direct costs, volunteers said – have gone into restoring the preserve. Volunteers have removed invasive species, planted native flora and protected it from human activity.
In that time, residents have seen the nature preserve flourish and return to its natural state.
“The goal is to get it back to what it must have looked like pre-European contact,” said Ken Cassman, a local resident and volunteer.
According to Cassman, the preserve has nearly, if not already, reached that goal. The preserve is home to more than 300 species of native birds, animals, plants and insects, at least 22 of which are protected species, including the California gnatcatcher, the Pacific pocket mouse and a possible badger.
“I’d say it’s among the best habitats in San Diego County,” Cassman said. “This much diversity is partly because of the water presence here, which adds that extra dimension attracting more species.”
According to volunteer and Wanis View resident Mike Tenhover, part of the preserve’s success is due to its collection of ecosystems not commonly found together in a single preserve: riparian, alkali marsh, alkali meadow, coastal sage scrub, freshwater marsh, southern willow scrub and alkali flats.
Tenhover explained that the Wanis View Preserve is one link in the chain of a 2,000-acre corridor of nature preserves that stretches from Pilgrim Creek Ecological Reserve to the east to the Seacliff Preserve on the coast.
The issue with Eddie Jones, he explained, is that the warehouse would disrupt the corridor’s wildlife exchange like a roadblock. Paired with other development going on along the 76 corridor – like nearby Ocean Kamp, a planned 92-acre development with up to 700 homes, a 300-room resort, retail and office spaces, and a 3.5-acre wave lagoon – area residents fear the loss of what little natural space they have left.
“There’s so much development going on along the 76 corridor, where the last places we have with any natural habitat left,” Cassman said. “It’s such a pity to further constrict it.”
The preserve contains a vernal wetland, which is typically only present after a significant amount of rain. The wetland remains dry for most the year in drier conditions, but wetter years like this one in particular help keep water around all year.
The wetland also serves as a pitstop for migratory birds.
“We have such a diversity of big, migratory birds coming through here,” Cassman said. “It’s marvelous.”
The Wanis View Preserve is directly connected to the Mauro Preserve, which started restoration work approximately four years ago. The goal is to return the preserve to its natural state, just like Wanis View.
Tenhover said the idea is for the corridor to serve as a pathway for dwindling wildlife populations to grow and spread throughout.
“We’ve seen the gnatcatcher come from Seacliff, and Mauro will eventually get our birds too,” Tenhover said. “With a big corridor for wildlife, we’ll have a more stable situation.”
The Eddie Jones project’s draft environmental impact report is currently available for public review and comment.
Written comments on the report can be submitted to either the city’s Development Services Department at 300 N. Coast Hwy or the Oceanside Public Library at 330 N. Coast Hwy. Letters should be addressed to Principal Planner Rob Dmohowski and can also be emailed to [email protected].
The city will accept comments regarding the report until 5 p.m. on Dec. 11.
After the environmental impact report is complete, the project will go to the Planning Commission for approval. If appealed, the project would then go to City Council for final approval.