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Vote on housing project put off

CARLSBAD — Concerned residents must wait until Jan. 25 for City Council to vote on a controversial housing development project proposed along El Fuerte Street.
With new Mayor Matt Hall at the helm, council members unanimously agreed to postpone the vote at their Jan. 11 meeting. Councilmen Keith Blackburn and Mark Packard requested the extra time to digest information presented by the project developers and local residents.
“The in-fill (lots) are always the toughest,” Hall said. “This project was, in my notes, completely redesigned twice. They’re never easy.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, city staff recommended council vote in favor of the project, named El Fuerte View, despite an appeal from local homeowners. The proposed development would add seven homes to a nearly 4-acre vacant lot in the La Costa area.
Residents who spoke during public comment noted a variety of concerns with the project, including technical instability, environmental issues and the city’s refusal to impose long-term insurance for developers, among others.
“We do not oppose development; in fact, three or four luxury homes on the site would be a welcome addition to our mature neighborhood,” resident Anne Estes said. “Our biggest concern with this potential development is the physical damage it will most certainly cause to other properties.”
Concerned residents also asked council to consider a requirement for developers to reach out to neighboring homeowners associations, or HOAs, before moving forward on a project. Unfortunately, Packard said, “that’s not our domain.”
“It’s a very disappointing feeling that I have that neighbors are fighting like this,” Councilwoman Farrah Douglas said. “Unfortunately, the city’s hands are tied. We can not be policing different HOAs.”
Original lot owner Gus Hamsayeh spoke in defense of the new landowners, Michael Schmidt and Nataliya Orlova, who he suggested have done everything by the books for this project.
Hamsayeh argued that the appeal filed by neighbor Bob Lattis was an “injustice,” as owners of nearby homes have encroached on the El Fuerte View property lines with fences and pools.
“They build swimming pools, spas, gazebos. They have put all this dirt from the pools onto my lot,” Hamsayeh said. “This is driving me nuts. It is so much injustice.”
Council members will revisit the issue at their Jan. 25 meeting before taking a final vote.
In other news, Hall reinstated Ann Kulchin to her current position as mayor pro tem, while newest member Douglas was assigned roles with the San Diego Water Authority, League of Cities — San Diego Division and SANDAG board of directors.
Councilmmen Blackburn and Packard will continue on with their current duties.
“I want to thank each one of you and look forward to working with you on those boards, commissions and committees,” Hall said, before closing his first meeting as mayor.