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Romeria Pointe project appeal sent back to Planning Commission

CARLSBAD — Residents in La Costa are pushing back against a residential development they say is unsafe.

The City Council, meanwhile, remanded an appeal regarding the 23-unit, four story Romeria Pointe Apartments on Romeria and Gibraltar streets back to the Planning Commission during its June 11 meeting.

The controversial item took two-and-a-half hours as staff presented the project, residents spoke out against it and the developer, John Allen of Streamline Development Group, told the council about the measures and mitigation efforts included in the proposal.

The project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) under state guidelines regarding in-fill development projects, according to the staff report.

In the end, the City Council remanded the project back, 4-1 with Mayor Matt Hall voting to deny the appeal, to the Planning Commission, which approved the project 7-0 on March 20, as long as the developer completes an environmental impact report covering geotechnical and traffic issues due to “unusual circumstances.”

Once the focused EIR is completed, the Planning Commission will take action to approve or deny the required development permits, according to city staff.

Residents opposing the project said safety is a priority as a nearby complex has shifted due to ground movement and instability. They fear the proposed apartments would suffer the same fate and put people in harm’s way.

Additionally, others railed against the lack of a traffic study; although 184 average daily trips is under the threshold of 500 to require such a study, according to the staff report.

Regardless, the council opted to have the developer include a traffic study with the EIR.

Allen, though, said the site is a dumping area, unmaintained and stormwater runoff is an issue. With the development, a stormwater treatment system, as required by state law, will be in place, Allen said.

In addition, he said the project will feature a smart, green building with a low-eco footprint, electric vehicle charging stations, slope improvement and will increase housing stock.

“Our project is not allowing infiltration, “Allen said of the stormwater system. “It includes an on-site, contained stormwater biofiltration facility. This is designed to remove pollutants, direct stormwater to the city municipal system, reduce runoff rates and prevent infiltration into the soils to cause any erosion on the steep terrain.”

The development has 16 three-bedroom units and seven one-bedroom apartments, three of which will be very low-income affordable units. The developer also was granted a 35% density bonus, thus allowing for six more units.

“There have to be very specific findings to grant the appeal,” Hall said.

Sue Ortman, who filed the appeal and lives on Romeria Street, said she is fearful due to the instability of the land in the area.

Ortman said five years ago, her five-unit townhome complex underwent significant renovations and reinforcement caused by land movement. A geologist, she said, noted the land movement at the current proposed site as well.

In addition, Ortman and the other residents paid $26,000 out of pocket to cover damages.

“A small retaining wall by the development 10 feet from our building is not going to do the trick,” she added. “Surveys have not been thoroughly done due to self-certification of the project. The proposed site is on a slope of two elevated plots. I do feel strongly that this project is an accident waiting to happen.”

Above: A controversial 23-unit apartment complex in La Costa was remanded by the Carlsbad City Council to the Planning Commission for an environmental impact report. Photo by Steve Puterski