VISTA — Residents are not giving up hope on a recent commercial development project along Hacienda Avenue and Vista Village Drive.
About 50 people wearing masks and many holding signs gathered at the intersection on July 14 next to the plot of land approved for Sunroad Plaza, a development featuring four drive-through restaurants and a to-be-determined fifth business. The project is located just off state Route 78.
The Vista City Council approved the project, 3-2, during a June meeting. Councilwomen Amanda Rigby, who represents District 3 where the project is located, and Corrina Contreras voted no.
Lonna Leghart helped organize the rally, along with Jaydon Sterling-Randall. The two women acknowledged the rally may not make a difference but are holding out hope the council will call back the item and look for a different project.
“The goal was to widen the awareness about Sunroad because it seems as though the folks most concerned have already written letters,” Leghart said. “We want the reach to go beyond our neighborhood … and to those who drive through that intersection every day.”
The proposal did not meet standards set by the California Environmental Quality Act detailed in the environmental impact report; however, the council determined there were reasons for approval.
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.”
Sterling-Randall said the new jobs the majority of the council championed are minimum-wage jobs. Additionally, she said the addition of drive-throughs should not be considered by the city to make economic progress and noted 61 letters to the council opposing the project.
“We feel like our voices are not being heard in response to this development,” Sterling-Randall said. “(Rigby) voted adamantly against it and gave a number of viable reasons.”
One of Rigby’s arguments was the increased traffic, which she said will increase the time it takes drivers to get on and off the freeway at the intersection by six to eight minutes. Sterling-Randall said the roads going through the quiet neighborhoods will also experience increased noise and traffic.
But their main issue is that the city is looking to drive-throughs rather than for projects with higher-paying jobs. They say that they understand the land will be developed, but what goes on the 4-acre plot of land should enhance the area.
Leghart and Sterling-Randall said they are worried property values may slump as a result of so many drive-through businesses. In addition, Leghart said Panera is relocating, so the city cannot count those people as new jobs and Starbucks may also be relocating to the new development.
“He’s going to bring back the hotel,” Leghart said of Julian Shadle, who wants to develop the hotel. “He doesn’t want to build homes next to the freeway and he doesn’t want to build homes across from the drive-throughs.”