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Picture of Coast Highway taken during summer of 2019 in South Oceanside. Oceanside city planners are currently looking to hear from residents about what they think the city’s future should look like. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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What will Oceanside look like in the next 15 years?

OCEANSIDE — Throughout January, city planners are seeking input on what residents value about Oceanside and how they want to shape their city for the next two decades.

Through its Onward Oceanside campaign project, city planners have been working for the past year to complete the city’s General Plan Update as well as the Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan and the South Morro Hills Community Plan.

The project team consists of Principal Planner Russ Cunningham, Senior Planner Rob Dmohowski and planners Shannon Vitale and Stefanie Cervantes.

In the next few weeks, the city is hosting a series of virtual workshops where residents can tune in and actively participate in groups to discuss what they would like to see laid out in the three plans.

“We are asking the community to share with us what they believe are the fundamental values we share as Oceansiders, and what priorities they believe the city ought to be pursuing,” Cunningham said. “The collection of these values will come together to create a broad vision for the city’s future over the next 10 to 15 years.”

The General Plan serves as a blueprint for a city’s future development goals. State law mandates that each city and county have a “comprehensive, long-term general plan” with a purpose for planning new growth, housing needs, environmental protection and projection of future demand for sewer, water, roadways, parks and emergency services.

According to state law, the city’s plan must cover the following eight elements: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, safety and environmental justice. Plans can also address economic development, air quality and public health.

The first phase of the plan’s update, which was finished in 2019, included the creation of the Economic Development Element, the Energy and Climate Action Element and the city’s Climate Action Plan. The rest of the phases will be developed during the current second phase.

In addition to leading the project’s team, Cunningham is also responsible for the land use, mobility, safety and noise elements.

Dmohowski is responsible for the housing element, which is the only element required to be updated according to a schedule.

The state determined that San Diego County needs 171,685 housing units to be built between April 15, 2021, and April 15, 2029, as part of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment’s (RHNA) sixth housing element cycle. Of that amount, Oceanside must build a total of 5,443 housing units.

The city must demonstrate to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by April 15 that they can meet their new housing allocations.

Dmohowski is also in charge of the South Morro Hills Community Plan, which will look into how this highly rural, northeast neighborhood can accommodate additional housing and agritourism while preserving its agricultural resources and saving its farms.

The council instructed city staff to come back with a community plan for South Morro Hills after the North River Farms project was approved in November 2019, which changed the zoning amendment in the neighborhood allowing for more development.

Dmohowski explained that farmers in South Morro Hills are finding it harder to farm based on the cost of labor and competition from other areas, and many are interested in potentially selling land for residential use.

Currently, the area only allows for one house per 2.5 acres. Dmohowski said staff is looking at the potential for cluster housing, which preserves the majority of agricultural land and places the houses so that they are not seen from the road and avoid affecting agricultural production.

“Residents up there want to preserve the ridgelines and terrain and keep agritourism and housing in the lower areas out of public view,” Dmohowski said.

Though the discussion of housing connects the South Morro Hills Community Plan and the Housing Element, the city doesn’t plan to rely on South Morro Hills to meet its RHNA requirements.

“We’re doing our best to take the smart growth approach to accommodate housing,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham is also in charge of the Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan, which will serve as the foundation for the General Plan Update. Through this plan, the city will seek to build future housing and employment growth along the city’s major commercial corridors.

Oceanside received a grant from the Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Grant Program to plan for more sustainable growth along Mission Avenue, Oceanside Boulevard and Vista Way. In addition to infill and redevelopment, the plan will focus on a bicycle, pedestrian and transit-friendly infrastructure while simultaneously decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, attracting more businesses, preserving open space and reducing urban sprawl.

Cervantes is responsible for overseeing the conservation and open space element. The conservation side will address how much land needs to be conserved and what species must be protected as well as historical and cultural preservation.

Cervantes said the city has reached out to all of the nearby Native American bands and has spoken with representatives from the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians.

“We’re hoping to get more input from them,” Cervantes said, adding that the bands have been invited to the upcoming virtual workshops.

Vitale is responsible for the community facilities element, which will handle updating libraries, cultural venues, the senior center, public safety and other publicly managed buildings.

According to Vitale, the city is currently focusing on repurposing a lot of its already existing facilities rather than creating new ones.

One particular feedback Vitale has received from residents so far is the desire to see many of the city’s tennis courts that are not being used repurposed into pickleball courts.

“The goal of the element is to see what we currently have and how we can repurpose those facilities to provide adequate services,” Vitale said.

Cervantes noted the community facilities element have close ties to the conservation and open space element.

“A lot of parks are considered open space, but there are also community buildings on those spaces,” Cervantes said. “Those elements are very connected, and though each address certain things at the end of the day we’re hoping that those separate elements will complement each other.”

Vitale is also working on the consolidated Active Transportation Plan and Trails Master Plan, which will look at ways to improve access to parks and city amenities through better connectivity.

The first virtual workshop, scheduled for Jan. 12, will discuss the land use, mobility and noise elements. Community facilities, conservation and open space and safety will be discussed on Jan. 13, and the housing element will be discussed on Jan. 19. All of the workshops will start at 6 p.m. on their scheduled dates.

Residents can visit to register for the workshops.

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