VISTA — A controversial commercial development proposal known as Sunroad Plaza was approved by the City Council, 3-2, during its June 23 meeting after it had been denied by the Planning Commission.
The land has long been zoned commercial, but residents pushed back against Sunroad Enterprises’ proposal for four drive-through restaurants and an undetermined business.
The proposal does not meet standards set by the California Environmental Quality Act and detailed in the environmental impact report (EIR), but the council found reasons for approval.
Lonna Leghart and more than 50 other residents from the Vale View neighborhood objected to the project, saying fast-food restaurants and a car wash are not ideal for the section of land off Vista Village and Hacienda drives just south of state Route 78.
A car wash was part of the original proposal but was eliminated in a motion by Councilman Joe Green.
Last year, residents were able to beat back a proposed hotel development on an adjacent property.
“Vista City Council’s 3-2 vote to approve Sunroad’s development demonstrates a short-sightedness and lack of responsibility to our Climate Action Plan and to CEQA,” Leghart said.
“That leads me to conclude the council just allowed another drive-thru restaurant to complete the five-pad development. I fear we will not have the opportunity to review the impact of that business, and it will actually worsen the GHG (greenhouse gas) impact overall.”
The EIR showed the project will generate 10,054 average daily trips for vehicles producing 2,517 metric tons of emissions per year.
Even if mitigated, the project would still not meet the city’s Climate Action Plan and state requirements regarding greenhouse gases. The staff report noted the GHGs would “still be significant and unavoidable.”
Councilwomen Amanda Rigby and Corrina Contreras voted against the project. Rigby noted how the emissions are a problem, along with added traffic from Hacienda to Melrose Drive and getting on and off SR 78.
Rigby said by 2030, the traffic times will increase by as much as eight minutes and Sunroad’s traffic improvements will not alleviate the congestion. The drive-through restaurants and car wash were not permitted under the current zoning, but the council approved a special-use permit to allow them.
Mayor Judy Ritter and councilmen Green and John Franklin felt there were enough mitigating factors to approve the project. Additionally, they championed new jobs from restaurants and other businesses, plus added tax revenue.
Sunroad’s Lisa Gordon said the project will be a boost for the city as the site has been vacant since 1997. She said it was designed to promote redevelopment and revitalization.
“The primary objections are there are too many drive-throughs,” Gordon said. “They are economically viable … and current trends are reinforcing this. A great deal of thought went into the planning and design of this project.”