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A rendering of Ocean Creek, a proposed 295-unit apartment complex and mixed-use development at Crouch Street and South Oceanside Boulevard. Courtesy rendering
A rendering of Ocean Creek mixed-use project. Courtesy rendering
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Oceanside approves 295-unit Ocean Creek project near Fire Mountain

OCEANSIDE — A 295-unit mixed-use project is set to take over a vacant lot on the corner of Crouch Street and South Oceanside Boulevard after the City Council approved the development in its first meeting of the new year.

The council on Jan. 11 voted 4-1, with Mayor Esther Sanchez opposed, in favor of allowing the 19-acre Ocean Creek project to move forward.

Proposed by JPI Companies, the project includes 3,000 square feet of commercial space along with 265 market-rate apartments and 30 affordable, income-restricted apartments ranging in size from studios to three bedrooms.

Ocean Creek will also include amenities such as a yoga studio, fitness room, cardio room, bike repair room, dog spa, club room, conference room, outdoor pool and spa, pool cabanas, fire pit, outdoor dog park and a nature walk for residents.

Ocean Creek is a transit-oriented development located directly adjacent to the Crouch Street Sprinter Station and local bus routes. According to city staff, the project is consistent with the General Plan’s Energy and Climate Action Element and the city’s Smart and Sustainable Corridor Plan by accommodating growth within an already urbanized area rather than creating “urban sprawl.”

“It’s been under the community’s control for a long time to envision this for housing and mixed-use,” said William Morrison, development director for JPI Companies.

The project also plans to restore and preserve local habitats along the nearby Loma Alta Creek.

While the project does invoke the state’s Density Bonus Law, the developer isn’t proposing to build any more apartments than what local laws already dictate is allowed there. Instead, the company is benefitting from a density bonus to reduce the number of parking spaces to 1.5 spaces per residence.

However, even with that reduction, the developer is still building 467 parking spaces, more than the 374 minimum parking spaces allowed under the density bonus.

Residents opposed to the Ocean Creek project feel parking is insufficient. Courtesy rendering
Residents opposed to the Ocean Creek project feel parking is insufficient. Courtesy rendering

In late 2022, the city received a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development reminding city leaders they must follow state housing laws or face litigation from the attorney general, which could fine the city $10,000 for each unit denied in density bonus projects.

Ocean Creek received the Planning Commission’s approval in October, with Commissioner Jeff Symons opposed due to concerns about the project creating more opportunities for vehicles to cut through portions of the Fire Mountain neighborhood. These concerns were echoed in an appeal of the project by Candace Johnson, who argued that the project would cause more traffic problems at intersections like Crouch Street and Skylark Drive and Crouch Street and South Oceanside Boulevard.

JPI Companies plans to make several traffic improvements, including closing the existing gap on South Oceanside Boulevard, a separate but parallel road next to Oceanside Boulevard. The developer would also install a left turning lane on Crouch Street to enter South Oceanside Boulevard, improve signal timing at the Oceanside Boulevard and Crouch Street intersection, install a new sidewalk along the north side of Crouch Street and new curb ramps at Crouch Street and Oceanside Boulevard.

“We find this to be an attractive and appropriate development type for this location and for mixed-use,” said Principal Planner Russ Cunningham.

Still, the developer’s promises did not assuage traffic concerns from Johnson, the appellant, and other Fire Mountain residents.

Johnson noted that the project’s traffic analyses were done during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first analysis occurred on March 17, 2020, just after the first pandemic shutdown began. However, a second analysis was done on March 16, 2021, after businesses had reopened while nearby schools were still operating on hybrid in-person schedules.

“Their traffic studies started in COVID-19 and finished in COVID-19,” Johnson said.

Johnson also alleged that the traffic analysis did not monitor the correct peak hours or consider potential cut-through traffic.

According to Cunningham, the 11 intersections and six roadway segments studied in the traffic analysis would operate at acceptable service levels with the project in place.

The city also has plans to install speed bumps and other traffic calming measures throughout Fire Mountain sometime in the next few months.

Johnson and several other residents also wanted access to Crouch Street restricted from the new development. As a caveat to approving the project, the council required that any left or right turns onto Crouch Street from South Oceanside Boulevard be restricted, making that portion of the road westbound.

Members of the public who attended the council meeting where the project was approved were split on their opinions about Ocean Creek. While many Fire Mountain residents who attended were against the project, several were in favor. Several people who were not current Oceanside residents also came to speak in support of the project.

A handful of representatives with the Southwest Mountain State Carpenters union also spoke against JPI, accusing the developer of wage theft and other labor abuses from other projects; however, that case was brought against another Southern California company with a similar name, not the Ocean Creek applicant.

Some members of the public became rowdy at some points, yelling at speakers and demanding they state where they live. Council attempted to calm the crowd with a recess in the middle of the public hearing.

The Building Industry Association of San Diego County sent a letter to the mayor citing its concerns regarding the demeanor of the meeting.

“It should not be intimidating to attend a Council meeting. One should be able to come, hear the discourse, present an opinion, and be heard with respect. That did not happen last Wednesday,” read the letter from BIA president Lori Holt Pfeiler. “It was very disheartening. It is incumbent upon the Mayor and Council to model the best behavior in the room. As leaders of your community, you set an example for others to follow. When you don’t set a high standard, you permit attendees to dive to the bottom in their respective behaviors.”

The developer estimates Ocean Creek will be ready for residents in 2025 or 2026.

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