OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside City Council unanimously denied a project last week that proposed to build a more than 142,000-square-foot Amazon distribution center near several residential neighborhoods.
After a month-long recess, Council came back Aug. 4 for a public hearing to decide the fate of the proposed Amazon Logistics Facility on the eastern end of Ocean Ranch Boulevard in the Ocean Ranch industrial park.
Previously reported to be an Amazon Fulfillment Center, the logistics facility would have been different from a fulfillment center because it would not maintain an inventory of goods to fill online orders, according to city staff. Instead, the facility would have provided “last mile” package delivery service of products through the major online retail company.
Ryan Childs, project manager of LPC West, the property owner and applicant for the proposed distribution center, explained that Amazon would bring in goods to be delivered to the region from other facilities to the Ocean Ranch location, then fleets of local delivery drivers would then take those goods from the distribution center-right to the homes of nearby customers.
According to Childs, the original intentions for the property were to build a 500,000 square foot facility before Amazon came along.
“Amazon found out we had this property and came to us,” Childs said. “Amazon is a good tenant and we didn’t have a tenant in place before that.”
The Planning Commission approved the proposed project in a public hearing on May 17 in a 4-0 vote with three commissioners absent. Not even two weeks later, the City Clerk’s office received three separate appeals of the Planning Commission’s approval of the project. Those appeals came from Andrew Grundman, an attorney who filed on behalf of Residents and Workers for a Safe Oceanside; Finney Arnold, LLP on behalf of Smart Growth Oceanside; and the third by Oceanside resident Jeanne Leeper.
Leeper, with the help of other residents, submitted 40 signatures of property owners or tenants within the affected nearby communities against the project.
Both city staff and the applicant attempted to address the issues listed by the appellant groups during Council’s public hearing on the project. One of the biggest issues appellants argued was the project failed to consider the impacts of development in the area.
Area residents were concerned about the potential traffic congestion as well as noise and light pollution that the distribution center would have created. While there are several residential communities in the area next to the industrial park, the Amazon center would have sat directly up a hill just above the St. Cloud community.
The 142,746 square foot building would have included 15 truck terminals, 703 fleet vehicles and 230 parking spaces for employee vehicles. The facility would have hired about 500 employees, including managers, associates and delivery drivers.
Warehouse operations would have run 24 hours per day, with van deliveries occurring between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Semi-trailer trucks would deliver packages over a 24-hour period using a one-in, one-out approach.
Developers told Council and residents they tried to address neighbor concerns by proposing to build the facility at a natural grade with a retaining wall that would have blocked the building from the St. Cloud community.
“The St. Cloud community will not be able to see our building,” Childs said.
Still, residents were not convinced by the project.
Brian Whitbread, a resident of the nearby Vista Capri neighborhood, said the noise levels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. would have increased significantly with the arrival of semi-trucks. He also noted that more than 100 employees would be arriving in that time as well, potentially driving loud motorcycles, slamming car doors and activating their car alarms as they head into work.
“City staff testified the noise falls within permitted levels, but that is not the real world,” Whitbread said. “This project’s noise pollution will damage our sleep and quality of life.”
After more than two hours of testimony, Councilmember Peter Weiss motioned to grant the appeals and deny the project. He represents Council District 4, which is where the proposed project and the affected communities are located.
Weiss noted inconsistencies within the project’s environmental documents and said the impacts of the project appear to be understated to him, explaining that City Council was provided a different traffic impact study than the one the Planning Commission had with different numbers on employee and delivery vehicles.
“In my opinion, the addendum analyzes only an increment of the total impacts associated with this project and does not evaluate the ultimate or peak period impacts on traffic or noise,” Weiss said. “I don’t have confidence in the conclusions of those since it appears to be just a small increment or initial phase.”
Council voted 5-0 to deny the project.