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A rendering of the Avocado Road residential project in Oceanside’s Fire Mountain neighborhood. Courtesy photo
A rendering of the Avocado Road residential project in Oceanside’s Fire Mountain neighborhood. Courtesy photo
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Oceanside greenlights controversial Avocado Road development

OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission has approved the development of 19 single-family homes along Avocado Road in the Fire Mountain neighborhood despite the project’s unpopularity in the surrounding community.

Located on a 3.43-acre site on the east side of Avocado Road between Dustan and Zabyn streets, the project proposes to subdivide the property into 19 single-family residential lots.

The developer, Carlsbad-based Rincon Homes, reserved affordable housing within the project to invoke the state’s density bonus law. Rincon Homes has proposed to save one home for a very low-income household, bumping the base density from 15 to 19 units total.

The project also proposes to add two common area lots to make way for a private, internal 33-foot-wide roadway connected to Avocado Road that provides access to each home. Although private, the road will contain easements for public water, sewer, general utilities and city emergency vehicle access. A sidewalk will also be added along the Avocado Road frontage.

The property’s single-family residence, currently with renters, will be demolished to make way for the project.

The new series of two-story homes will feature both coastal and coastal modern architecture, applying various materials, including board and batten, shingle, and shiplap siding, light sand stucco and brick veneers to the exterior.

The coastal designs will resemble craftsman-style architecture using low-pitched, gable roofs with decorative beams, shingle siding and sectioned windows, while the coastal modern will use much of the same materials but also feature a non-traditional arrangement of windows, veneers and offset building surfaces.

The two-story homes will feature three different floor plan types, including two different types for the market rate homes – one featuring a front balcony option. The homes will also have six different color schemes.

A photo of the property facing east on Avocado Road in October 2022. Courtesy photo

Though seemingly small compared to other density bonus projects approved throughout the city, the development has disgruntled many of its surrounding neighbors who fear increased traffic, noise, air pollution and storm drainage issues. Around a dozen members of the public spoke against the project at the Planning Commission’s Sept. 11 meeting.

One of the top concerns is the amount of dirt leaving the site and truck traffic during the grading process. However, staff and developer representative Dan Niebaum of Lightfoot Planning Group explained that such traffic would only be short-term as the project would only generate about 24-round trips.

“Most of the dirt is staying on site,” Niebaum said. “It’s pretty minimal.”

Niebaum also noted that the developer would take a haul route to city staff for approval before grading work could begin.

The site’s topography experiences a significant drop on part of the property. The developer plans for grading to follow the topography, which will include using retaining walls alongside yards for some of the homes. The project will also direct storm drainage flows downward to the south and into a shared drainage channel that ultimately leads to the bio-filtration basin.

In terms of the storm drainage issues, many residents are worried that the project will exacerbate existing issues with drainage patterns and will damage other existing properties in the community.

According to staff, stormwater runoff in Fire Mountain is not being conventionally handled through curbs, gutters and an underground storm drainpipe network because of its existing “rural” structure. The community has expressed they prefer and want to maintain the community’s “rural-ish” character.

Neighbors also said they already deal with bad traffic cutting through the neighborhood and feel it will only worsen with the 19 new homes.

Candy Johnson, who lives on nearby Ivy Road, fears how the development will impact the community’s already inundated, narrow roads.

“The infrastructure of our roads will fail,” she said.

Although the project proposes to have two-car garages and driveways, neighbors are worried that new residences will take over parking along Avocado Road.

“There will be no way to monitor parking,” said Susan Weatherly, who lives directly across from the project on Avocado Road. “The neighborhood will pay the price in terms of unsafe walking conditions.”

Although the project will provide a sidewalk along Avocado Road, many residences have mixed views about adding sidewalks to the community. Niebaum also noted that the project had originally proposed not to add a sidewalk there, but staff insisted.

“Having a sidewalk will provide a pedestrian safe refuge,” said City Planner Sergio Madera.

Residents were also upset about the concession — allowed through density bonus — waiving the developer’s requirement to underground all utilities. Utilities will be undergrounded within the project’s boundaries but constructed above ground along Avocado Road.

While commissioners also expressed mixed feelings, the project was ultimately approved in a 4-0-1 vote, with Commissioner Tom Rosales opposed and Commissioner Jay Malik abstaining.

Rosales, chairman of the Planning Commission, said he struggled with the project’s unpopularity among residences and its lackluster outreach efforts.

Niebaum said the project had two community outreach meetings, one last December that had 34 attendees and a second in April that had over 70 attendees.

Malik suggested first conducting an overall traffic impact study on how all of the current development projects in the pipeline will affect existing communities, noting the recently approved 295-unit Ocean Creek mixed-use project nearby.

“We’re looking at things piecemeal,” Malik said.

Commissioners also voted 5-1, with only Commissioner Tom Morrissey opposed, to review city threshold guidelines on traffic impact studies.

Because of its smaller size, the Avocado Road project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act review and did not have to complete a traffic study, which also frustrated neighbors.

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