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A rendering of the Sunsets mixed-use project. Courtesy photo
A rendering of the Sunsets mixed-use project in downtown Oceanside. Courtesy photo
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Oceanside greenlights six-story apartment project downtown

OCEANSIDE — A majority of council members gave the green light on Sept. 13 to a six-story, 180-unit mixed-use apartment project to take over a mostly vacant lot on the corner of North Horne Street and Pier View Way.

The density bonus project, named Sunsets, will demolish two single-family homes on the 0.7-acre property facing Civic Center Drive and will include 18 deed-restricted affordable units, 17 reserved for low-income households and one for a very low-income household to replace one of the existing two-bedroom homes.

The bottom floor will provide 4,996 square feet of commercial space and the five stories above will be reserved for residential.

This is the third iteration of the project, which was previously approved in May 2020 as 76 residential units on a 0.47-acre lot. The developer, Howard Jacobs, then purchased two adjacent parcels with the existing single-family homes and submitted a revised application for 118 units on the 0.7-acre lot, which was approved in September 2020.

In the most recently approved revised project, Jacobs invoked the state density bonus law by including 18 affordable units – 10% overall – and bumping the density up to 180 units. The city does not have a maximum density for mixed-use projects in the downtown district.

The project will consist of 50 one-bedroom units, with five reserved for low-income and 130 two-bedroom apartments, with 12 reserved for low-income and one for very low-income.

Apartments will range in size from 375 to 750 square feet, with 10,112 square feet via open space in the courtyard, a rooftop deck and a pedestrian plaza.

A rendering of the Sunsets mixed-use project. Courtesy photo
A rendering of the Sunsets mixed-use project coming to downtown Oceanside. Courtesy photo

As part of the state density bonus law, the developer is allowed to request concessions, incentives or waivers. Though no concessions or incentives were requested, several waivers of development standards were made, including 0 feet of setbacks, a max height of 95 feet, no landscaping with the exception of parkways, 56 square feet of open space for each unit and only 10 units with balconies, among other waivers.

The project also proposes 315 parking spaces in a three-level garage accessed through the alleyway and 15 on-street parking spaces. The developer also requested a waiver to provide 127 large car spaces and 203 small car spaces instead of 256 standard-sized spaces.

Many residents have raised concerns regarding the downtown area’s increasing density. Earlier this year, the council approved a 64-unit apartment project on the block west of Sunsets on the corner of Pier View Way and North Clementine Street. Plans for other projects are also lining up for staff.

Council approved the project in a 4-1 vote, with only Mayor Esther Sanchez voting in opposition. She said the project reminded her of residential buildings that have caused issues in major cities like New York or Boston.

“I have really struggled with this project,” she said. “I’m having a very difficult time believing that these are livable spaces.”

Sanchez noted the one “redeeming” value of the project was the 18 affordable units.

“This is not a healthy situation for any families,” Sanchez said, noting the 375 square feet of space is incredibly small, especially if an entire family unit were to live there.

The City Council previously approved the no-density limit in the downtown area in 2019. Sanchez pointed out that among the three remaining councilmembers who were on the dais at the time – herself along with Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim and Councilmember Peter Weiss – she had voted against it.

Keim pushed Sanchez to deliver a “specific adverse impact” that would allow the City Council to deny the project. According to density bonus, the city could deny incentives, concessions and waiver requests for a project if a specific adverse impact – meaning a significant, quantifiable, direct and unavoidable impact based on objective public health or safety standards – is identified.

“I’m very willing to be a partner here and try to push back on these things – I have not heard one yet,” he said. “It’s easy to say no with no direct adverse impact and be the hero pushing back when there’s no legal reason to do that.”

Councilmember Rick Robinson didn’t agree with the mayor’s comparison of the project to units in large cities.

“To compare this to the projects of New York, Chicago or any other large, urban city is misguided,” Robinson said. “We can’t make an assumption that (in) every one-bedroom unit is going to be a family of six.”

Robinson noted that despite their small size, the apartments provide a “start” for young people who want to live in Oceanside. He also noted that the height of the building isn’t unsafe in terms of fire department standards.

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