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Oceanside council approves unpopular 8-story Seagaze project
A project rendering of a recently approved 8-story development at the corner of Seagaze and Nevada Street in Oceanside. Courtesy rendering
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Oceanside council approves eight-story apartment project

OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside City Council recently approved a controversial eight-story, mixed-use studio apartment and hotel project despite a lack of enthusiasm from elected officials and residents.

The 147,060-square-foot project will take over an unused 15,589-square foot parking lot at 712 Seagaze Drive with eight stories of 115 studio apartments and 64 hotel rooms at the northwest corner of Seagaze and North Nevada Street. At just under 90 feet, the building’s top two floors will be reserved for the hotel portion of the mixed-use development.

A total of 153 parking spaces with 97 standard- and 49 compact-size will be provided in the project’s parking garage, along with an additional seven spaces on Seagaze Drive adjacent to the project’s boundary.

Of those garage spaces, 25 will be reserved for electric vehicles, with 12 of those providing charging stations. An additional 59 bicycle racks will be included and five bicycle lockers for residents as well as a loading space for commercial purposes.

Normally a project this size would require about 186 parking spaces, however, because the project is located in the Downtown Transit Oriented District, or TOD, with close proximity to bus and rail public transportation, only 139 are required.

Per the state density bonus law, 12 units (10% of units) will be reserved as affordable housing for low-income residents. This law allows the development to have one incentive or concession — in this case, underground parking — and an unlimited amount of development standard waivers.

The developer requested eight waivers: one for setback requirements, open space requirements, landscaping minimums, parking width next to columns, compact spaces instead of standard parking spaces, garage aisle widths, building height and required facade modulation.

Last fall, Oceanside’s Downtown Advisory Committee approved the project through a 5-2 vote with a few exceptions: the project must restrict short-term rental usages, commit to limiting access to hotel guests from primary residential floors, dedicate one space per unit with no monthly parking fees, and also review its proposed alleyway garage entrance before the project goes to City Council.

Oceanside council approves unpopular 8-story Seagaze project
At just under 90 feet, the building’s top two floors will be reserved for the hotel portion of the mixed-use development. Courtesy rendering

The first three conditions were added with a restriction on stays less than 30 days to the hotel rooms only, meanwhile, the alleyway entrance was reviewed once again by staff and found to meet required standards.

Several residents who live in the nearby Seaside neighborhood think the eight-story building is out of place and will not only stick out like a sore thumb but will also further exacerbate traffic and parking issues in the area, especially with the project’s hotel portion.

“We need housing,” said Lisa Hamilton, who lives on South Ditmar Street. “We don’t need hotel rooms.”

But applicant Brian Elsey believes the combined hotel and apartment complex is exactly what downtown Oceanside needs, noting the city’s huge demand for housing as well as its growing tourist industry. He also disagrees with many residents’ comments saying the building is too high for the area.

“There’s been a lot of comments about the height of this building that it’s out of scale, it’s out of context, and we just simply don’t think that’s true,” Elsey said. “The neighboring senior living building is seven stories high at 75 feet — we’re just under 90 feet.”

According to the developer, the studio apartments will be marketed to young, single individuals in the workforce who want to have a beach town experience.

The studio apartments themselves would be about 300 square feet each. While on the smaller side for standard American studio apartments, the developer previously justified the size paired with the 1,700 square feet of common outdoor living areas and more than 2,750 square feet of indoor amenities like a pool, spa deck, indoor gathering space with a catering kitchen, dining and lounge areas; workspaces including a private room for individuals to work outside of their apartments without commuting; a gym and an outside area for pet relief.

The apartments will range between $1,800 and $2,000 monthly rent while the affordable housing units will be around $1,618 per month. These prices were based on an annual median income of $73,000, with tenants spending no more than 30% of their income on rent.

Elsey said these prices are better than other nearby competitors.

Council narrowly approved the project in a 3-2 vote, but only because the majority argued that their hands were tied by state law.

Projects that apply the state density bonus law are often difficult for local municipalities to deny because of the law’s focus, which is to encourage developers to build more affordable and senior housing. In order to deny such a project, the city would need to find a specific adverse impact on public safety or health, which would be legally risky considering that staff had already vetted the project as meeting code requirements.

“I don’t want to grant eight waivers,” said Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim. “Our hands are tied in many ways because of state law.”

Keim along with both Councilmembers Peter Weiss and Christopher Rodriguez voted in favor of the project, all three citing the state’s restrictive law, while Mayor Esther Sanchez and Councilmember Kori Jensen voted against the project.

Sanchez believed they could have at least denied the conditional use permit for the hotel portion of the project, but City Attorney John Mullen explained that the council would still need to identify a specific adverse impact because the hotel is the commercial portion of the proposed mixed-use project.

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