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A street view of 4665 North River Road, formerly classified as a light industrial zone. Screenshot/Google Earth
A street view of 4665 North River Road, formerly classified as a light industrial zone. Screenshot/Google Earth
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Oceanside rezones land along North River Road for future homes

OCEANSIDE — Nearly 26 acres of land along North River Road has been converted to residential zoning to make way for up to 400 future homes in a yet-to-be-determined housing development.

The Oceanside Planning Commission unanimously approved the general plan and zoning amendments to change the usage of two adjacent parcels of land at 4617 and 4665 North River Road from light industrial to medium-density residential and to establish a Planned Block Development (PBD) Overlay District, which is “intended to permit flexibility in land-use regulations and site development standards” for future developments.

The project, referred to as Tierra Norte, is located on the south side of North River Road between Avenida Descanso and Calle Montecito in the North Valley Neighborhood Planning Area.

Dan Niebaum, vice president of The Lightfoot Planning Group, represented the property owners SoCal AG Properties and Nagata Brothers on July 25 in front of commissioners

“This is an opportunity to repurpose this underutilized infill site to provide realistic, future housing options for the community,” Niebaum said.

According to Niebaum, it’s “highly unlikely” another industrial project would be successful at the site, which has been historically used for agricultural packing and growing crops.

North River Road: Land use change exhibit. Source: City of Oceanside
Land use change exhibit. Source: City of Oceanside

Niebaum also said the residential use would synchronize better with the other surrounding residential uses, ranging from low to higher densities than the site proposes.

Sergio Madera, the city planner overseeing the project, said a residential project value would be much higher at $181.28 million compared to a $98.05 million industrial project value. Madera also said the city’s revenue benefits would be higher at $15.3 million with a residential project compared to $2.2 million from an industrial project.

“(Industrial is) not the best use of the site,” Madera said.

While the density change means Tierra Norte could have up to 500 units, the PBD Overlay limits it to 400.

“You could experience much higher development in the area,” Niebaum said.

Still, the language in Planned Block Development Overlay doesn’t prevent a future developer from invoking the state’s Density Bonus Law to build even more units there.

“That’s a possibility that could occur,” Madera said. “Nothing in the law would preclude that.”

What the PBD can do is serve as a reference point for developers and city officials to make new and existing developments compatible, encourage “high-quality design elements,” and allow for different designs and architectural styles,

Several nearby site residents voiced their concerns and opposition to the change, citing existing problems with traffic congestion and parking in the area.

North River Road: Zone change exhibit. Source: City of Oceanside
Zone change exhibit. Source: City of Oceanside

“Our area is hardly able to support the existing density,” said Michael White, a resident of the Rancho Pacifica neighborhood. “The development’s proposed density is a great concern to us.”

White highlighted the area’s “extreme” traffic gridlock during peak hours between Douglas Drive and College Boulevard, the challenge of evacuations during the Lilac Fire in 2017 and surrounding neighborhoods overwhelmed with overflow parking.

“Four hundred additional homes on a 25.6-acre site can only exacerbate that situation,” White said.

Both Madera and Niebaum emphasized there is no development project being proposed at this time, only a change in zoning and land use laws to allow for future development.

Madera said the city would know more about what mitigation efforts for traffic, parking and emergency exits must be taken once a project is underway.