The Coast News Group
Westfield signs have been taken down at North County Mall after new owners Steerpoint Capital and Bridge Group Investments took over in February. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Westfield signs have been taken down at North County Mall after new owners Steerpoint Capital and Bridge Group Investments took over in February. Photo by Samantha Nelson
CitiesCommunityEscondidoEscondido Featured

Planning commissioners explore housing at North County Mall

ESCONDIDO — As the city continues to grapple with a budget shortfall, planning commissioners are looking at ways to build revenue for the city while simultaneously revitalizing the North County Mall, with the addition of housing seen as one possible solution.

On Dec. 12, the Escondido Planning Commission primarily discussed the addition of housing to the mall’s property, which is primarily city-owned. Commissioner Rick Paul brought forward the discussion for fellow commissioners to gauge their interest as well as other city leaders’ interest in the matter.

According to Paul, because the city already owns the land, it could add rental housing to earn additional revenue. In addition, the additional housing would help the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment requirements.

“It would be very easy to make great strides in those housing numbers by adding residential there,” he said at the meeting.

The other commissioners mostly agreed.

“Introducing residential to the mall — I not only think it’s a good idea, I think it’s vital,” Commissioner David Barber said. “We need to reinvent the mall. It’s not going to survive without additional foundations for retail to exist.”

Previously referred to as North County Fair, the mall opened in the mid-1980s, during a boom period for shopping malls. 

Steerpoint Capital and Bridge Group Investments purchased the mall from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield in February for $57 million, with plans for revitalization.

Only Macy’s and JCPenney remain in the original anchor stores after Sears and Nordstrom closed in 2020. Both stores remain empty, and Costco recently backed out of its lease agreement with the city for the former Sears building.

Barber said adding residential would create and maintain an added customer base, attracting more business for retail stores there.

Commissioner Carrie Mecaro agreed, saying she would like to see the mall mimic One Paseo, a 24-acre mixed-use development in Carmel Valley with retail, office space, restaurants and luxury apartments. She also wants to “take the roof off” and redevelop the mall into an open-space concept.

Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald, who lives near the mall, was also receptive to adding some residential but has concerns about overdoing it and driving away people rather than attracting more visitors. She also wants to see a medical clinic like Sharp HealthCare as a tenant at the shopping center.

Commissioner Stan Weiler said adding a residential component is “critical” for revitalizing the mall, though it needs to be well thought out in terms of planning.

“It’s a jewel ready to be repolished,” Weiler said of the mall.

In the past, staff has noted that adding housing to the North County Mall property would first require voter approval, which is why the city hasn’t moved forward on the issue. For Paul, the staff’s hesitancy on the matter is disappointing.

“Asking for voter approval isn’t an obstacle; it’s just an extra step – something you have to do,” Paul told The Coast News.

Paul said that adding housing to the mall could be an alternative form of city revenue rather than taxing residents again.

City Planner Veronica Morones said staff would bring back an informational item about the North County Mall with details about its history and housing restrictions at a future Planning Commission meeting.

Leave a Comment