Decision delayed on senior living complex project

Proponents and opponents of a proposed senior living complex along El Camino Real near San Elijo Lagoon have been granted a few more weeks to work out their differences.

Two appeals of the project's approval, which were supposed to be heard Jan. 24 by the City Council, will instead be scheduled for the council's next regular meeting on Feb. 14.

"The appeal has been postponed for two weeks as the two sides hopefully work on a solution," Mayor Catherine Blakespear said during the Jan. 24 meeting.

Westmont Living, which operates a string of assisted living centers in California and Oregon, is proposing to build an 85,879-square-foot structure with 93 housing suites for seniors on what's now a mostly vacant property just north of the Temple Solel synagogue and El Camino's intersection with Manchester Road.

The size of the proposed senior housing facility and its planned location have long been sources of conflict.

Westmont's original plans called for a 110,073-square-foot structure with 122 suites. Nearby residents said that was akin to dropping a massive, big box retail store into their backyards.

For comparison, the city's Walmart store at the northern end of Encinitas' part of El Camino Real is about 100,000 square feet and the Target store is about 140,000 square feet.

In May 2016, city planning commissioners agreed that the original design was too massive for the site and rejected it. Westmont then redesigned its plans and came back months later with plans for a downsized, 85,879-square-foot structure, which the Planning Commission approved in December.

Commission Chairman Glenn O'Grady said at the time that the smaller facility would still have an impact on traffic conditions, but not as much as the earlier one.

Project opponents said the redesign wasn't much better than the original, and vowed they would appeal the commission's decision to the City Council. On Dec. 22, the city received two appeals — one came from a single project neighbor, Linda Lux, while the other was filed by a group of neighbors.

In her appeal, Lux contends that the commission's approval should be overturned by the council on the grounds that the project is incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood of single-family homes, doesn't follow city design guidelines, has lighting that will spill over into the neighborhood, and will adversely impact "the general welfare of the community.”

The citizens' group — Encinitas Citizens for Responsible, Respectful Encinitas Development — contends in its appeal that the Planning Commission shouldn't have considered the project redesign in December because that was less than a year after the original, "substantially similar" project was rejected.

The group also argues that various commission findings in favor of the project were flawed and it contends that the developers should have been required to do a full environmental impact report on the project.

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