The Coast News Group
— City Council approved the city’s five-year financial forecast at its Feb. 5 meeting, which projects a general fund surplus of $1.31 million next year. Photo by Samantha Nelson

Oceanside council approves townhome project next to historic cemetery

OCEANSIDE — In early December, council approved a townhome development to be constructed next to a historic cemetery after two residents appealed it.

Breeze Townhomes first received the green light for approval from the Planning Commission back in September.

The project proposed by developer Oceanside-Nevada L.P. will include 34 townhome units on a 2.66-acre vacant and irregularly shaped lot at the end of Ditmar and Nevada streets. Its property is located next to the historic Oceanview Cemetery.

The lot where the project is to be built is narrow with a flat bluff-top area along its northern side and steep slope areas that extend to the Sprinter Line right-of-way. Though the entire lot is 2.66 acres, the project can only be built on 2.21 acres of the site.

Donna Geierman, one of the appellants, cited 33 grounds in her appeal of the project.

One of Geierman’s issues with the project is the possibility for negative impacts on the Oceanview Cemetery property. She claimed that the exact location of the property line is not adequately identified and that it is unknown if the historic property and gravesites will be damaged in construction.

Both city staff and the developer have both conducted reviews of the project, including surveys to determine property boundaries and a title report confirming the project’s boundary, and have determined that the cemetery property will not be impacted in any way.

Geierman was also concerned about the project not designing a fire lane following the city’s Fire Master plan, the lack of a “practical” area for delivery or service trucks to park, no dedicated mail truck parking, and fire lane blockage from trash truck and cans.

Staff responded in its report for the project stating that the project meets all required development and public service standards.

The other appellant was Julie Stenger-Smith, who lives on the South Nevada Street cul-de-sac where the project will be constructed. Though Stenger-Smith, who lives on the cul-de-sac, supports a new development like the Breeze Townhomes, she takes issue with how it will affect the street’s view of the ocean.

Stenger-Smith said both the city and the developer fail to recognize the view as significant. She noted that the Local Coastal Program, the city document that aims to protect ocean views and identifies them, is an old document written in 1985 during a time when development hurt “urban fit” in cities.

Ann Gunter of Lightfoot Planning Group, who represented the developer at council’s Dec. 4 public hearing on the project, said not every view of the ocean in the city is to be protected.

“The view from South Nevada Street isn’t designated as being in a highly scenic area or an area of significant aesthetic value in the LCP’s description of those areas,” Gunter said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t go to the end of the cul-de-sac and see a nice view, but part of what the LCP is identifying are significant views, things that are available to a large number of people.

“South Nevada is a dead-end street, it’s not a major thoroughfare, it’s a short cul-de-sac street where few people would experience the view,” Gunter said.

Stenger-Smith responded by defending the street’s view as “unique.”

“It actually has a distinct, geographical dip, so to speak, which is only viewable from the Nevada Street cul-de-sac,” Stenger-Smith said.

Council approved the project 4-1, with Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed.

For Councilman Ryan Keim, the project checks out as “smart growth” within the city due to its built-up high density and location near public transit and freeways.

“This is that smart growth that we’re looking for,” Keim said.

Keim also said the development will help curb crime in the area by filling in the vacant lot there, noting that he was previously a police officer who spent time patrolling the area.