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Proposed senior project includes habitat restoration on Via De La Valle

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Hacienda Del Mar’s proposed layout with a restored habitat open to the public on the western side of the property.
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A draft environmental impact report on a proposed senior living community on Via De La Valle is expected to be completed this summer. The proposed project, Hacienda Del Mar, is located next to the San Diego Surf Cup Sports Park on some of the last acres of open space in the San Dieguito River Valley.

A senior living facility has been in the works at this site for several years. A previous project under a different developer was larger in scale and called for 225 casitas spread across the entire lot and a wellness center across the street. Developers Milan Capital took over the project in 2013 and have made efforts to work with surrounding neighbors who have expressed concerns about density, community character and water management as the lot sits in a floodplain.

Hacienda Del Mar has proposed to cluster four one-story buildings consisting of a total of 150 independent and assisted living and memory care units below the hillside at the eastern portion of the site. The remaining 11 acres on the western side closest to El Camino Real will be restored as natural habitat.

The public will have access to the restored habitat area and the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s design subcommittee reviewed some of the area’s features at its Feb. 19 meeting.

“I think the habitat is going to be a really nice community amenity, we’re really excited about it,” said Chris Nichelson, president of Milan Capital Management.

Milan Capital’s landscape design team shared some of the native plant palette of trees and shrubs that will surround the restored salt marsh preserve and a water quality basin. There will be a trail and boardwalk surrounding the basin and the habitat preserve (about a half-mile loop around the preserve) with viewing platforms, informative plaques and interactive features such as scopes and audio/sensory abilities. At the request of the design sub-committee, the trail loops will slightly meander.

There will also be connectivity to the Coast to Crest Trail in the area.

As a result of input received, Hacienda Del Mar’s buildings will incorporate earth tones, varied rooflines and Santa Barbara- style architectural details in neighbors’ view corridors. The subcommittee has also given input on the design of a new bus shelter on Via De La Valle and the signage for the community.

Project neighbor Corey Hao said he is interested in seeing the results of the environmental impact report. He said he would still would prefer the development to be on the west side with the habitat restoration against the slope, which he thinks matches up better with the current wildlife corridors from the neighboring San Dieguito River Valley.

Hao said he appreciated the evolution of the project and the consideration given to the open space.

As the project is located on Prop A agriculturally-zoned land, the planning board and the city of San Diego will have to make a policy decision on whether the project is urban or non-urban in scale and character.

Prop A, which passed in 1985, states that any development on agriculturally-zoned land is to be very low-density housing, open space or agricultural use. Any more intense development must go to a city-wide vote.