OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission recently denied a six-story, 146-unit apartment complex off Oceanside Boulevard between Ditmar and Nevada Streets.
As part of the staff’s recommendation to approve the project, an addendum was included to modify a previously approved entitlement for the 2.67-acre property.
In late 2019, the Planning Commission approved entitlement of what was going to be Breeze Townhomes, which would have constructed 34 units. Since then, the developer changed directions on the project with Breeze Luxury Apartments, increasing the height and number of units drastically through a density bonus application.
California’s Density Bonus Law allows housing developments that reserve a percentage of their homes for affordable housing to have the right to additional density, waivers of local development standards and incentives that reduce affordable housing costs and parking requirements.
Under standard zoning regulations, development could have up to 97 units at this site; however, because the developer, Oceanside-Nevada L.P., proposed to reserve 15% of that amount (15 units) for affordable housing, up to 146 units are allowed under density bonus.
Both nearby residents and commissioners took issue with the drastic change in size, height, and appearance of the building.
“It’s hideous,” said Planning Chairman Tom Rosales.
The building would have been nearly 59 feet high with a 74-foot elevator tower and included a rooftop deck and pool. On the ends of the long building would have been balconies to offset the structure’s shape, and solar panel shades would have been placed above each of the unit windows and vertical solar panels on the side.
“I’ve been on the commission for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything this stark except for possibly, as people have said, a prison or hospital,” said Commissioner Louise Balma.
Several members of the public were also concerned about traffic impacts on the area given the significant increase of units proposed.
Commissioner Kevin Dodds noted that Ditmar School is located across from the site on Oceanside Boulevard. Ditmar is no longer a conventional elementary school but does house Surfside Academy, the district’s alternative education program.
“One child getting hit is too many,” Dodds said. “We’re talking about going from 36 condos to 146 units of apartments — that’s going to be a lot of cars injected into that small area right across the street.”
Sergio Madera stepped in for Rob Dmohowski, the city planner who oversaw the project, at the Aug. 22 meeting. He explained that despite the change in size, there were no new traffic impacts identified with the change than what was previously identified and approved by the Planning Commission.
Representatives of the applicant explained that the change to the project reduces some impacts in terms of its biological effects and reduced land coverage. Staff noted that the development’s proposed footprint was reduced to a lot coverage of 25.7% as opposed to the previously approved townhome project, which had a 32.5% lot coverage.
The project also increased parking with 259 spaces, 229 for residents and 30 for guests, and 146 bicycle parking spaces. The project proposed constructing two underground parking levels and parking on the ground floor.
Dan Niebaum with The Lightfoot Planning Group represented the applicant, who explained that the project fits into the city’s Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan, which identifies Oceanside Boulevard as a place to build infill, higher-density developments near mass transit. The closest Sprinter station is less than half a mile from the project site, with a proposed route for pedestrians to get there.
Niebaum pointed out that the plan’s language supports the proposed project.
“They really reinforce the increase in density infill development along the corridors,” Niebaum said. “That’s what we’re doing with this project.”
Despite the project checking all the legal boxes, commissioners struggled with how the development may harm the surrounding community, its significant increase in density, its appearance and its increased height while sitting on top of a hill.
“It’s not so pretty, but it’s functional,” said Commissioner Tom Morrissey. “If I lived there, I don’t know that I would be happy about it… I don’t know how you make it prettier.”
Commissioners Morrissey and Jeff Symons were the only two approval votes for the project. Balma, Dodds and Rosales voted against it.
Staff will need to return to the Planning Commission with a formal resolution denying the project.