Developer gathers enough signatures for senior care facility in Solana Beach

In the coming years, aging seniors could have another place to go to receive assistance in Solana Beach.

A Cardiff-by-the-Sea development company has announced it has received the number of signatures needed to have its tentatively-named “Solana Beach Senior Care Facility” go to the voters in the coming months in a special election.

Current plans for the senior and memory care facility, proposed on a 2.9-acre vacant lot at 959 Genevieve Street, east of the I-5 Freeway, call for between 94 to 96 beds and about 60 parking spaces. It will also include amenities such as a library, cafe, bar, dining area, living rooms, activity rooms, fitness center, gardens and open space with park-like features.

Because of the city's Prop T — which gives voters a chance to weigh in on land use rules — the project needed to gather a certain amount of signatures to change the zoning of the land from residential to commercial.

In early January, RhodesMoore LLC set out to acquire about 900 signatures — or about 10 percent of Solana Beach's voting population — within six months. The development company actually collected 1,250 signatures and recently submitted them to the city for verification, the developer said Jan. 14 in an email to the Solana Beach Sun.

Lisa Margolin, a spokeswoman for the proposed facility, said she expects the city to verify the signatures by early February.

If the project wins over voter approval, it would have to be submitted to the city council for input on its environmental impact report and overall plans. The project will also need to earn approval from the California Coastal Commission.

John DeWald, principal at RhodesMoore, said he hopes the project earns total approval in the summer, at which point they can begin drafting construction documents.

"The reality is, it's at least two years before this would be built," he said.

He considered Solana Beach an ideal space for the facility because of its older population. The city is already the home of the La Vida Del Mar, which is also a senior care facility. However, unlike the proposed center, La Vida Del Mar does not offer memory care services, DeWald said.

"Some of the best places for senior care facilities are older neighborhoods where you have an older population," he said. "The ideal thing for seniors is to be able to go to an assisted living facility that's in the same neighborhood they lived in. ... Solana Beach is a great opportunity for that because it's actually the oldest community in San Diego County in terms of the demographics. There are a lot of older people here and a lot of people that need this kind of facility."

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 18.7 percent of the city's population is over 65 years old.

DeWald added that his group has been working to get this site approved as a senior and memory care facility for nearly eight years.

The goal is for the project to be "very unobtrusive" from the neighborhood's perspective.

"It really is positioned so we try to block some of the freeway views and noise for these homes but not block their horizon views," DeWald said, adding the project will blend in with the surrounding area's architectural design.

However, residents have shared concerns that the project would bring added vehicular traffic from ambulances and delivery trucks, as well as additional dangers for pedestrians.

DeWald said most of the parking spaces will be used for staff, as many of their residents either won't have cars or will seldom drive. Additionally, he does not believe traffic from ambulances of delivery trucks "are going to be significant problems."

He expects between two and four delivery trucks per week.

In regard to medical service vehicles, he said he's studied statistics from La Vida Del Mar, which have shown that over the last six years at that facility, they've had an average of one-and-a-half ambulance calls per week.

"I don't think it's going to be much more than a large neighborhood typically sees," he said. He added he believed a senior center could reduce such calls to a neighborhood because of the full-time professional staff that can triage the issues.

RhodesMoore has hosted several workshops to gather input from the community and plans to continue hosting more meetings to further educate and receive suggestions from neighbors of the project.

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