Oceanside Planning Commission rejects 146-unit apartment project

OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission has turned down a six-story, 146-unit apartment complex off Oceanside Boulevard between Ditmar and Nevada streets.

As part of the staff recommendation to approve the project, an addendum was included to modify a previously approved entitlement for the 2.67 acre property.

In late 2019, the Planning Commission approved the entitlement of what was to be Breeze Townhomes, which would have built 34 units. The developer has since changed focus on the project with Breeze Luxury Apartments, dramatically increasing the height and number of units through a density premium claim.

California’s Density Bonus Act allows subdivisions that set aside a percentage of their units for affordable housing to qualify for additional density, waivers from local development standards, and incentives that reduce affordable housing costs and parking needs.

Under normal zoning regulations, a development could have up to 97 units on this site, but because the developer, Oceanside-Nevada LP, has offered to set aside 15% of that amount (15 units) for affordable housing, up ‘to 146 units are allowed under prime density.

Nearby residents as well as commissioners took issue with the building’s drastic change in size, height and appearance.

“It’s hideous,” said commission chairman Tom Rosales.

The building would have been nearly 59 feet tall with an elevator tower nearly 74 feet tall and would have included a rooftop terrace and swimming pool. At the ends of the long building, there would have been balconies to offset the shape of the structure, and solar panel blinds would have been placed above each of the unit’s windows along with vertical solar panels to the side.

The Planning Commission turned down a six-story, 146-unit apartment complex off Oceanside Boulevard between Ditmar and Nevada streets. Staff recommended approval of the 2.67 acre property. Photo by Samantha Nelson

“I’ve been on the commission for a long time and I’ve never seen anything so austere, except maybe, as people have said, a prison or a hospital,” Commissioner Louise Balma said.

Several members of the public were also concerned about the traffic impacts on the area given the large increase in proposed units.

Commissioner Kevin Dodds noted that Ditmar School is located across from the site on Oceanside Boulevard. Ditmar is no longer a conventional elementary school but is home to Surfside Academy, the district’s alternative education program.

“One affected child is too much,” Dodds said. “We’re talking about going from 36 condos to 146 apartment units – that’s going to be a lot of cars injected into this little area just across the street.”

Sergio Madera replaced Rob Dmohowski, the town planner who oversaw the project, at the August 22 meeting. He explained that despite the change in size, there were no new traffic impacts identified with the change than had previously been identified and approved by the Planning Commission.

Representatives of the applicant explained that the modification of the project actually reduces some impacts in terms of biological impacts and reduction of land cover. Staff noted that the proposed development footprint has been reduced to 25.7% lot coverage as opposed to the previously approved townhouse project which had 32.5% lot coverage.

The project also increased parking with 259 spaces, 229 for residents and 30 for guests, as well as 146 bicycle parking spaces. The project proposed to build two levels of underground parking as well as a parking lot on the ground floor.

The applicant’s representative was Dan Niebaum of the Lightfoot Planning Group, who explained that the project was part of the Smart and Sustainable Corridor Plan, which identifies Oceanside Boulevard as a location for higher density infill developments near public transportation. The nearest Sprinter station is less than half a mile from the project site with a proposed pedestrian route to get there.

Niebaum pointed out that the wording of the plan supports the proposed project.

“They really reinforce the increased density of infill development along the corridors,” Niebaum said. “That’s what we’re doing with this project.”

Although the project checked all the legal boxes, commissioners struggled to understand how the development could harm the surrounding community, its sharp increase in density, appearance and increased height as it sat atop from a hill.

“It’s not that pretty, but it’s functional,” Commissioner Tom Morrissey said. “If I lived there, I don’t know if I’d be happy about it… I don’t know how you make it prettier.”

Commissioners Morrissey and Jeff Symons were the only two approval votes for the project, while Balma, Dodds and Rosales voted against.

Staff must return to the Planning Commission with a formal resolution denying the project.

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