- Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive
Plans for a “residential care facility” (RCF) called Hacienda Del Mar are working their way through the City of San Diego approval process. This is a successor project to the even larger Rancho Del Mar (see Sandpiper, December 2016, “Lagoon Monster Resurfaces”), abandoned after encountering resistance focused on upholding 1985’s Proposition A, Managed Growth Initiative, launched and ratified by environmentally concerned citizens. The developer, Milan Capital of Anaheim, has adopted a new strategy, arguing that “Proposition A allows development non-urban in character and scale,” and that the proposed intermediate care facility fits that description and thus qualifies for a conditional use permit.
The almost 24-acre lot between the once-Polo-now-Soccer Fields and Via de la Valle, across El Camino Real east from Horse Park, is clearly part of Prop A lands which require a public vote to alter the zoning from “very low-density, residential, open space, natural resource based park or agricultural uses.” Supposedly a conditional use permit circumvents that requirement. Furthermore, while RCFs, intermediate care and nursing facilities, are not permitted on Prop A lands, the Development Services Department says this prohibition could be removed by an amendment to the Municipal Code, which “will be processed as an uncodified ordinance.” What’s that?
As the Development Project Manager for the City, Morris (Mo) Dye, wrote to the Milan representative, “staff will not support a City-wide municipal code amendment and offer another method for approving your project,…through an uncodified ordinance which is site specific and limited to only the project site.” What is this but an arbitrary ad hoc exception? Is it that easy to get around or suspend the Municipal Code?
The project provides for 71 independent living units. 45 assisted living and 34 memory units, 191 beds in all, in two 2-story buildings of about 165,667 square feet, with 172 surface parking spaces. To raise it above the flood plain will require 12-14 ft of landfill. Placement, style and profile of the buildings have been repeatedly tweaked to suggest ‘non-urban’, but fitting that characterization will depend on the definition.
As Senior Planner Bernard Turgeon wrote, in response to a query from the San Dieguito River Park (SDRP) staff, “There are no criteria for determination of non-urban in character. This is a policy in the NCFUA (North City Future Urbanizing Area) Framework Plan. The determination will ultimately be made by the City Council. DSD and Planning are providing a recommendation and evaluating the project as a whole in terms of total acreage of open space, the clustering…, architectural form, landscaping as well as similarity to projects that can be proposed without a rezone.”
When it comes to evaluating the public benefit represented by the open space contribution within the project, Turgeon wrote that “Long Range Planning uses the General Plan definition which includes visual and other attributes not limited to habitat value. The site is also not within the MHPA, the City’s habitat preserve.” “The stormwater detention basin is considered part of the open space contribution as a visual resource. Habitat enhancement is proposed elsewhere on the site.”
The approval process thus seems configured in a way that leaves much scope for subjective judgment, on the part of City of San Diego staff and of the San Diego City Council, tending to nullify the clear import of Proposition A and the City’s General Plan.