SOLANA BEACH — When Alicia Campos moved with her mother, daughter and three grandchildren into the Solana Highlands Apartments earlier this year, she hoped it would be somewhere her family could call a long-term home.
She had no idea at the time, back in March, that the owners of the complex were planning to demolish the building in the coming years and replace it newer, more expensive apartments that she and other residents would no longer be able to afford, essentially removing their chances of living in Solana Beach.
Now, Campos and her family are among hundreds of residents set to be pushed out of Solana Highlands by mid-2023 for a massive renovation project that will do away with the 198 existing units, which many describe as “naturally affordable,” and replace them with a 260-unit complex with 32 designated affordable units for seniors.
Residents began receiving notice in June of 2022 that they would need to move out within the year, with the demolition of the building and construction expected around next fall. Campos said she heard about the planned demolition through the grapevine and was shocked.
“When we moved in, they didn’t tell us,” Campos said, noting the apartment is conveniently close to her job at UC San Diego and her grandkids’ three schools. “I look around at other apartments, and they have a long waiting list, like a Santa Claus list. It’s not going to be so easy to go and rent another place.”
The H.G. Fenton Company purchased the property at Nardo and Stevens avenues in 1998, fostering plans to redevelop the Solana Highlands Apartments for years. In 2018, the Solana Beach City Council approved the proposed demolition of the existing building and the construction of 260 new units, which is now set to take place next year.
To ease the transition for residents, H.G. Fenton is providing relocation assistance equal to one month’s rent for residents who have lived there for at least 12 months, has ceased all lease-break fees and will give priority to current residents at the company’s other properties throughout the county, a company representative said.
“We understand current apartment residents’ lives will be impacted, and we take the responsibility of being their partner to heart,” said Margie Newman Tsay, an H.G. Fenton spokesperson. “This is why we have been working hand-in-hand to understand the greater community need, and each resident’s experience and what being of service means to them during their relocation.”
Current residents interested in moving into the new Solana Highlands apartments upon completion will also be given priority, according to Tsay.
Solana Highlands has been a housing location for several of the city’s low-income and Latino families in the otherwise mostly-White, affluent beachside community, where the average rent for a one-bedroom in Solana Beach is over $3,000 per Zumper. At Solana Highlands, residents have found two bedrooms for around $2,700.
While some of the current residents may be able to afford other housing in Solana Beach, Mayor Leesa Heebner anticipates the new project will, unfortunately, lead to many of the residents having to leave the city.
“It’s just kind of what’s happening these days, this gentrification. We’re losing a good portion of our valued community, and you guys are stuck being those people we are unfortunately going to have to lose,” an emotional Heebner said to Solana Highlands residents at the city council’s early November meeting.
Campos and her family and other Solana Highlands residents spoke to the council about their impending displacement and the lack of affordable housing in the area.
Maria Cardenas, Campos’s mother, said she has become accustomed to her life in Solana Beach, where she has her doctor nearby, is part of a senior citizen group and enjoys the tranquil safety of the city. She depends on SSI benefits for income and has limited options for housing.
Solana Highlands’ younger residents attending the nearby Skyline Elementary, Earl Warren Middle and Torrey Pines High schools said they don’t want to leave their friends and start over somewhere new.
“I’m doing good at school, so if I move, I’d probably have to find new friends and find new places to go to after school,” said Oscar, Campos’s grandson, who is getting ready to graduate from Skyline to Earl Warren.
While Campos’ lease ends in March next year, she hopes to stay until at least May to allow her grandkids to finish the school year. After that, they may move to Escondido or San Ysidro, where rents are more affordable.
“This isn’t the end; it’s not a funeral. Something better will come,” Campos said. “I’m going to do everything possible to keep my family here.”
City officials encouraged community members to reach out if they have or know of rental opportunities in the area where residents could relocate.
“I’m saddened by what’s happening to you, and I hope someone who’s listening might have an
ADU or a space to rent to [these] members of our community who are good people and need some help,” said councilwoman Jewel Edson.
New and improved Solana Highlands
Despite the impacts on current residents, H.G. Fenton officials say that the revitalization is essential in the long term for making the complex sustainable.
“The revitalization of Solana Highlands will provide 260 new homes that will meet current code, energy efficiency standards, and enhanced amenities not currently found in the 198 existing units,” Tsay said. “This means we can offer improved long-term housing for generations to come.”
While the construction of new units means rental prices will likely be higher, the project will also bring 62 more units than what is currently offered at Solana Highlands, thanks to a density bonus granted from providing affordable units.
In this way, Tsay said the project is also helping the city meet its projected housing need of 875 new units by 2029, as outlined in the San Diego Association of Governments’ most recent Regional Housing Needs Assessment.
The craftsman-style units in the new complex will be split into three “neighborhoods,” according to H.G. Fenton. The development will also include walking trails, increased parking, updated water, sewer and electrical infrastructure and recreation facilities.
When will people ever realize that The Democratic Party of California is owned by parasites like Fenton, other Corporate landlords and developers?
They are sucking the lifeblood out of the lower and middle class and provide endorsed Democrats with all the funding they need to get elected and voters fall for it.
Catherine Blakespear had her State Senate run funded like a good pliable developer puppet and voters foolishly elected her. San Diego elected all Council members like Lee who operate as nothing more than serfs to developers and get rewarded for it by voters who don’t look around at what is happening.
R.I.P. San Diego
Once again we see that gentrification and the commoditization of housing, not NIMBYism, as the real cause of lack of affordable housing in our region. A key part of providing affordable housing is to preserve the stock we already have, because new construction is extremely expensive.