Equestrian center to transition to senior care facility

Seabreeze Farms Equestrian Center is in the process of becoming a senior living community.
(Karen Billing)

Seabreeze Farms Equestrian Center in Carmel Valley, currently home to about 80 boarding horses, is in the process of being sold and converted to a senior care community. The equestrian center has been on Old Carmel Valley Road for almost 30 years, situated on open space near Cathedral Catholic High School.

“As much as we love the horse business, we have found that operating a fairly large, high impact, agricultural use closely surrounded by an ever growing suburban community has been a continuous challenge and a severe drain on resources,” said owner Chad Harris. “So, over the past couple of years, we have looked into alternate uses that would be consistent with the current zoning, be compatible and a good neighbor within the existing neighborhood, and would be a beneficial and much needed use for the overall community.”

The Harris’s family looked to a senior housing as a “quiet, symbiotic” use on the property that would would help out with San Diego’s current housing crisis.

“My family and I have had very heart-warming and wonderful experiences with senior living, both in building it and with my grandparents living in them,” Harris said.

The new proposed senior living community is being led by SRM Development, a Spokane, Washington-based, real estate developer that specializes in high population growth markets, building multi-family or retirement communities.

According to Jim Rivard, SRM managing principal, the company has been an active developer in San Diego over the last 15 years. In San Diego, they were one of the first developers to build a multi-family project in the East Village in 2002, the Entrada. They also developed the Market Street Village Albertsons — at the time it was only the second grocery store in downtown San Diego and one of Albertsons’ first urban grocery stores.

An example of what they might build in Carmel Valley is Merrill Gardens at Bankers Hill, senior living in private apartments, offering residents assisted living care as they need it and amenities such as a dining room, gym and social activities. SRM has completed over 1,000 senior housing units throughout Washington, California and Nevada.

“One of the big market demands in California is for seniors. We believe seniors should have the opportunity to remain in their communities, rather than have to move somewhere else,” Rivard said. “They shouldn’t have to move if they’ve lived in Carmel Valley for years and years.”

He said many seniors have reached the point in life where they are not capable of the day-to-day responsibilities of owning a home and this development will provide an alternative.

“We think Carmel Valley and coastal San Diego is underserved and we think this is a really good use,” Rivard said.

The proposed preliminary plan is for three structures: A memory care center, a building that will house 125 units and six duplexes with 12 units for independent living. The site is roughly 32 acres and the developers aim to buy 8.78 acres, leaving the remaining 24 acres as open space.

The current zoning allows for licensed residential care facilities for seniors, but the developers will need to amend the precise plan for the area, a process they are just now initiating. The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board approved the initiation of the city process on June 22 and the plan will likely come before the board several times for review and approval of the conditional use permit.

Seabreeze Farms Equestrian will partner in the project and will create a small “picturesque” pasture and boarding for 15 to 25 “retired” horses in the previously approved open space pasture areas, maintained through a non-profit organization.

Based on what they have heard from the neighboring community, including Cathedral Catholic High School, Rivard said it has been made clear neighbors would like to see the continuance of the trail system in the open space that has never really been completed.

Rivard said they aim to be “good neighbors” as these types of communities are relatively low impact.

The height limit for the units is 35 feet. Where the new buildings face neighboring single family homes, they will be two stories but the units will be 18 to 20 feet below the existing homes. “They should be able to look out and not have their views blocked,” Rivard said of the neighbors.

As they are still early on in the process, Rivard said SRM is “not married” to any type of architectural style — they will look to the community to see what might fit best in the neighborhood.

“We intend to be here for a long time and want to build a high-quality project,” Rivard said.

“The bottom line is that we wanted a really thoughtful replacement use that would be easily compatible with and truly beneficial to our community, would preserve all the open space and trails, along with an experienced and relationship-oriented partner who could make that desire a reality. SRM and this property are a perfect fit for all of that,” Harris said. “I love living in Carmel Valley and want to see nice things happen here. Seabreeze would be a wonderful place for the seniors who live there.”