Solana Beach City Council approves affordable housing project

By Kristina Houck

Although neighboring residents packed City Hall to halt the proposal of an affordable housing project, the Solana Beach City Council on April 23 unanimously approved the development and a more than $2 million loan for the developer.

Called “The Pearl,” the-three story building will feature three one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging from 505 to 1,032 square feet, one 1,383-square-foot four-bedroom unit and 795 square feet of commercial office space. In addition to the 10 apartments and office space, the project will provide 53 parking spaces in structured parking, replacing the existing 31 spaces and adding 22 residential and commercial spaces.

“I really think that this is a good project,” said Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner. “I feel that we need affordable housing, not just because of the laws, but because it is the right thing to do.”

The 10-unit project will not only help the city satisfy a state requirement, but make good on a legal settlement.

All cities are required to provide affordable housing, but Solana Beach has been subject to lawsuits since the 1990s after the council took action that closed a mobile home park. Rather than go to trial, the city entered into what became known as the Perl settlement, which mandated the replacement of 13 affordable units. So far, only three units have been built.

Prior to the council’s vote, many neighboring residents argued against the project during the meeting. Some spoke in favor of affordable housing but argued the development is not suitable for the specific property. Other feared the project would increase crime and traffic while decreasing property values.

Most of the speakers lived in Seascape Sur, a residential community located across from the project site at 555 South Sierra Ave. The manager and assistant manager of Sand Pebbles Resort, a timeshare complex located adjacent to the site on Highway 101, also spoke in opposition of the project.

“There is only one place this beautiful project fits, and that’s on a projector screen,” said Seascape Sur resident Martin Schmidt, who has lived on South Sierra Avenue for 20 years. “It’s painfully clear to everyone that lives in the neighborhood that it just doesn’t fit. “When you take this project off the screen and you put it on this small parking lot, what you have is a project that is simply bursting at the seams. It is bursting at the seams on a street that is bursting at the seams now.”

Concerned about the possibility of increased crime, Seascape Sur resident Sharon Frank noted that her parents’ Las Vegas home was burglarized a few years after an affordable housing project opened nearby.

“They were given the same promises that we’ve been given here tonight — the same story — and their lives were significantly changed,” she said. “If this project is allowed to be built, we may be looking at a very serious security problem.”

Some opponents argued the council’s decision should have been delayed or the project should have been denied, claiming residents didn’t receive proper notice of the meeting. Several speakers also pointed out that the city denied applications for view assessments from the Seascape Sur Homeowner Association and Sand Pebbles Resort.

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