OCEANSIDE — The city has offered to pay a developer the difference in cost to build an extra affordable unit in a new three-story apartment complex on South Tremont Street.
The Oceanside City Council unanimously approved The Tremont, a 17-unit residential development, during its Aug. 9 meeting. As proposed by developer JLH FXS Tremont, LLC, The Tremont apartment complex will consist of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, with only one designated affordable studio unit for very low-income households.
But the council added a condition of approval for the project, requiring the developer to evaluate the cost of building two affordable units — a studio and a one-bedroom apartment. Councilmember Peter Weiss, who suggested the condition, said the city has a policy allowing them to provide financial assistance to developers.
“If they set aside one of the one-bedrooms and studio and there’s a financial gap, we have the ability to make up that gap,” Weiss said.
Before Weiss’s suggestion, Mayor Esther Sanchez and Councilmember Eric Joyce wanted the lone affordable unit upgraded to a one-bedroom apartment at The Tremont.
“This would make it more fair,” Sanchez said, noting the project’s size compared to the rest of the neighborhood.
By including a very low-income unit, the developer invoked the state’s density bonus law, allowing a greater total number of units on a parcel normally zoned for a maximum of 14 units.
The developer has also requested two waivers of development standards, also permitted under density bonus projects, including only eight covered parking spaces instead of 17 and half the amount of outdoor storage for each dwelling unit, dropping from 160 to 80 cubic feet.
To build The Tremont, construction crews will demolish two currently vacant single-family homes and a triplex, currently housing tenants. The triplex includes a studio rented to a lower-income household and two two-bedroom units offered at below-market-rate rental prices.
“We have six people accessing affordable housing at the moment,” Joyce said. “They are being displaced for the new units that are going to be rented at market rate – this is the displacement that’s happening right now all over the city… as land prices go up and more people look to redevelop properties that people are using right now.”
Sanchez, who voted in favor of Weiss’s condition, said she still wants to see a one-bedroom apartment as the complex’s lone affordable unit if unable to designate one-bedroom and studio apartments as low cost.
The only time development projects like The Tremont end up in front of the City Council is on appeal. The Planning Commission originally approved the project in a 6-1 vote in March. The following month, Tremont Street resident Christine Ann Russell submitted an appeal of the commission’s decision.
“This is not promoting the general welfare of the residents who already live on that street,” Russell said.
Russell had three main issues with the project. The first issue asserted that the project would impact and block safety access due to increased visitor and delivery traffic, thus requiring the street to be widened for emergency vehicle access.
“If a mass emergency happens, you can’t fit 16 firetrucks on that street,” Russell said.
According to city staff, the fire department reviewed the project and determined that emergency access would not be hindered.
Russell’s second issue claimed a coastal analysis is required before adding more multifamily units to the neighborhood.
According to staff, the project is compliant with minimum off-street parking requirements and would not create a significant impact. The project’s low trip generation calculation does not trigger the threshold to warrant a traffic study, which is consistent with the city’s Local Coastal Program and Coastal Act policies.
Senior Planner Sergio Madera noted the project will add two on-street parking spaces as the complex’s parking lot will be accessed through the alleyway, not on Tremont Street.
Russell, a disabled woman using a wheelchair for mobility, also claimed the project would impede access to vehicles for persons with disabilities.
City staff said there is no evidence in the project record that indicates the development would impede existing or proposed ADA access. The project will also create two handicapped parking spaces in its off-street parking lot.