Another high-density, transit-oriented project proposed in Oceanside

Mixed-use, four-story, 295-unit complex would be built next to Sprinter Station

Another transit-oriented mixture of apartments and retail shops is headed to the Oceanside City Council, which has approved similar projects recently despite widespread opposition from residents.


Council members have acknowledged people’s frustrations with increased traffic, difficult parking and the changing skyline of their neighborhoods. But they say California laws require the city to approve projects that address the statewide housing shortage and encourage more people to use public transit.


The project called Ocean Creek will have 295 apartments and 3,000 square feet of retail space in five four-story buildings proposed for the corner of Oceanside Boulevard and Crouch Street. The site is about three blocks east of Interstate 5, near a Sprinter ligh trail station and along one of the city’s busiest Breeze bus lines.


“You can’t get any closer to transit than that,” project representative William Morrison said Friday. “It’s consistent with the city’s Smart and Sustainable Corridors Program and its Climate Action Plan.”


Both documents advocate for a planning policy often called “smart growth.” It suggests building higher density housing in older neighborhoods near public transit to create walkable communities, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.


But not everybody sees the Ocean Creek project as smart growth. An online petition requesting the city’s denial had more than 200 signatures by Friday.


“This project will cause significant traffic and safety impacts to the existing Fire Mountain community,” states the petition placed on Change.org by Oceanside resident Jennifer Meyerdierks.


“Fire Mountain has been a respected, safe, friendly neighborhood for over a century,” the petition states. “Our safety is an issue, and will become a bigger issue with increased traffic. Fire Mountain residents object to the vast increase in traffic, congestion, pollution, noise, and speeding through our peaceful neighborhood with this new high-density development.”


The developers are aware of those concerns and are working with the city to address them, Morrison said. Additional studies are underway of nearby intersections and changes that better accommodate the additional traffic.


“We believe that opening up South Oceanside Boulevard will alleviate existing issues and offer a route away from Fire Mountain,” he said. The developer also is working with the city to add a left-turn pocket from Crouch Street onto South Oceanside Boulevard.


Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2023 and the first units could open in 2025, Morrison said. So far no Planning Commission or City Council hearings have been scheduled for the project, though the developer has been meeting with city planners and neighborhood residents.


The apartments will range from 591 to 1,301 square feet and have one, two or three bedrooms. Some will be reserved for low-income residents, but the number has not been determined yet, he said.


Plans include 10,000 square feet of interior space for conference rooms, a game room, a gym, dog spa and bike cafe, along with a total of 478 parking spaces, of which 299 would be covered in carports or garages. Open space will include a courtyard, pool, spa and barbecue area.


Thomas D. Weese, a trustee for the Robert A. Weese family trust, owns the property, according to documents on file with the city Planning Department. The developer is JPI Development Co. of San Diego, and the architect is Architectural Design Collaborative of Laguna Hills.


Oceanside has approved a number of higher-density residential projects in recent years. The trend is encouraged by state laws that require incentives for developers who include low-income housing and build infill projects close to public transit.


Last month, the Oceanside City Council voted 3-2 to approve a single eight-story building with 115 studio apartments and 64 hotel rooms on 1/3-acre gated parking lot at the corner of Seagaze Drive and Nevada Street.


Traffic and parking issues led the list of concerns raised by neighborhood residents, nearly all of whom objected to the height and density of the building. However, the project will include 12 apartments reserved for low-income occupants, which allows it to waive some of the local limits on things like parking and building heights.


Mayor Esther Sanchez and Councilmember Kori Jensen opposed the Seagaze project. But the council majority said the project meets the state’s requirements for high-density housing, and they had no choice but to approve it or face the possibility of a lawsuit.


In October, the city’s Planning Commission approved a four-story, 54-unit condo building on South Coast Highway, despite objections from neighborhood residents, also citing concern about state housing laws.


State law also appears to have trumped the opposition to the 585-home North River Farms project proposed for 177 acres in Oceanside’s agricultural community of South Morrow Hills.


North River Farms would place up to 15 homes per acre, along with a hotel, retail shops and offices, on its Village Core area in what is now farmland. Other parts of the project would be less dense, with single-family homes, community gardens and space preserved for native habitat.


Oceanside voters overturned the City Council’s approval of North River Farms with a ballot referendum in November 2020. However, the developer, Integral Communities, filed suit and a judge ruled that the referendum was “preempted” by state Government Code 66300, which the Legislature passed in 2019 to maximize housing development.


A separate case against North River Farms, filed by the nonprofit Preserve Calavera over environmental issues, remains undecided and so far construction has not begun.


In a San Diego court case, a judge ruled last month that the luxury 525 Olive building going up in Bankers Hill overlooking Balboa Park is allowed to be 25 percent taller than the city’s building height limit because the structure includes 18 subsidized apartments for low-income residents.


Community groups who sued the developer said the 20-story building would block their views, was too close to the street, cast shadows over the neighborhood and didn’t fit well with the community.


Article Via: Phil Diehl, San Diego Union Tribune


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