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Developer John DeWald is proposing an approximately 96-bed residential care facility for the elderly. Courtesy photo
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Traffic primary concern over senior care facility

SOLANA BEACH — The 20 or so people attending a March 13 workshop aimed at gathering input on the design elements of a proposed senior care facility had more to say about traffic than roof lines, landscaping, materials and building style.

One attendee said she didn’t object to the initial plans, and in fact found the facility “tasteful.”

“It’s what it generates in the community,” she added. “I think it’s the worst place in that quadrant to put this.”

Developer John DeWald is proposing an approximately 96-bed residential care facility for the elderly on a vacant 2.9-acre lot east of Interstate 5 on Genevieve Street at the intersection of Marine View Avenue, just south of The Timbers office complex.

The mostly one- and two-story facility will have up to 85 one- and two-bedroom units that will be available on a rental basis. About two-thirds will be for assisted living. The other third will be memory care.

Medical care will not be provided, but assistance with daily living, including housework, meals, laundry, medication management and transportation, will be, DeWald said.

The proposed complex will be state-licensed and include a library, dining area and entertainment space.

Improvements are planned for Genevieve, including adding a sidewalk and expanding the turn-around area at the cul-de-sac, but the roadway will not be widened.

The developers are leaning toward Craftsman architecture similar to The Lodge at Torrey Pines to maintain a rural feel, but the final design, materials and landscaping have not been chosen.

Based on early input, architect Gary Cohn created initial plans that feature long, low roof overhangs and towers slightly higher than the roofline to break up vertically the long, narrow facility and make it look like several buildings.

DeWald and Cohn hoped the workshop would help them finalize some of those design elements, but similar to the discussion at a scoping meeting last July, comments focused on traffic concerns, with many saying the facility was the right project in the wrong location.

“I take care of patients like this on a regular basis,” Perry Sexton, M.D., who lives on nearby Los Caballitos, said, noting that many residents will use ambulances to go to doctor appointments.

He said those emergency vehicles, as well as delivery trucks, are too big for the narrow roads in the neighborhood.

“When we’re talking about emergency vehicles … they drive differently than do others,” Sexton said. “These facilities don’t belong in this particular residential area because of the nature of the roads.”

According to an analysis the project will have a relatively negative impact on traffic, DeWald said. Preliminary traffic counts estimate it will add 220 to 240 trips per day, or about 20 cars per hour.

Most of the increased traffic will be generated by employees and shifts can be adjusted so they aren’t coming and going at peak traffic times. DeWald said similar-sized facilities have an average of one-and-a-half to three ambulance visits per week.

Additionally, DeWald said according to some studies, people living in senior care facilities tend to make fewer emergency calls and the operator could choose to have a physician who makes regular visits, which would decrease the number of off-site doctor visits.

Sexton said the proximity to the freeway is another concern for the elderly.

“The traffic and noise can be extremely stressful,” he said.

DeWald said studies and surveys show there is a need for such a facility in the city.

“If you’ve lived here a long time, this will give you an opportunity to stay in Solana Beach,” he said, adding that he envisions most residents will come from within a 5-mile radius of the facility.

“There’s a definite need,” DeWald said. “Many people in Solana Beach are original homeowners who are now in their 80s. It would be nice if people could stay in their neighborhoods. It makes it easier for family and friends to visit.”

“There is a need but I don’t know that the demand is next to a freeway,” Sexton said.

Other residents agreed.

“I think it’s wonderful to find a place to put that kind of facility, to be able to keep people in their own communities,” Catherine Bolt said. “I live right across the street. It just doesn’t seem like a good choice for this type of facility.

“It’s a very unique area,” she added. “Once you get past The Timbers, I feel like we’re pretty much maxed out on commercial property. It’s a very narrow road. The architecture is attractive. Find a better place.”

“It just doesn’t fit the site,” Mary Jane Boyd said. “I support a senior care facility because I think there’s a need, but it just doesn’t seem to be the right place.”

DeWald is planning to develop the property using a specific plan, which requires voter approval. He will soon begin gathering the approximately 1,300 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered voters, to qualify for an initiative for a special election he will pay for this summer.

If the specific plan passes, the next step will be approval from the California Coastal Commission. If all goes as planned, the facility would be ready for occupancy in about three years, DeWald said.

A similar workshop for input on design elements will be held onsite from 10 a.m. to noon March 24. Sign up for updates at

A meeting with the selected operator, Frontier Management, is planned for next month.