Traffic, pedestrians top concerns for Solana Beach retirement home

Environmental review is underway for an 86-unit assisted-living facility proposed on nearly 3 acres east of Interstate 5 in Solana Beach.
(Sebastian Montes)

Given the first look at rough plans for an 86-unit retirement home on the vacant 2.9-acre parcel in Solana Beach along Interstate 5’s eastern edge, neighbors to the would-be facility made clear last week that they will insist upon extensive and thorough remediation to make the proposal fit into their semi-rural community.

After tossing out various ideas over the six years since acquiring the parcel just south of The Timbers office building, Encinitas-based developer John DeWald on July 13 kicked off the public phase of environmental review for a two-story complex. DeWald is leading the project for HFF Investor Relations.

The nascent project is so far going by the name Solana Beach Senior Care Project. Two-thirds of the facility will be assisted living; the rest will be for memory care. DeWald envisions a 96-bed facility (with a capacity of 99 beds) for full-time care assisted living with a 50-person staff, 25 of whom would be on site during peak hours. The facility will offer nutrition and medication management but not full-fledged medical or nursing care.

Pointing to studies that claim Solana Beach’s senior population will balloon from 2,200 to 3,500 over the next 20 years, DeWald said there is far more demand for senior housing than there is supply.

“The other senior care facilities near us, they’re mostly on waiting lists,” he said. “It’s going to get worse as more and more people in the community get to that age.”

The July 13 forum with Solana Beach city planners opened the project’s Environmental Impact Report, starting the process to field feedback on how to make the project less onerous on its residential surroundings.

About 20 residents from the neighborhood — made up largely of single-family homes on quarter-acre lots, a throwback to Solana Beach’s agricultural past — attended the forum. Their concerns centered on traffic to and from the facility, especially the abundance of emergency vehicles and supply vehicles, that will pour through the residential streets. Highland Drive is the neighborhood’s main artery, but Marine View Avenue will be the facility’s primary ingress and egress.

That route will take the facility’s traffic past two schools and a learning center within a few hundred yards of each other.

“My concern, more than anything, is for the children,” said Carol Thomas. “Yes, I’m old. We’re old. And there are many older people in the neighborhood. But now, in the last few years, [there are] many more younger children, and they are walking to school. There’s no sidewalks. The streets are very narrow. You have young mothers walking their little babies on these streets. … The children are on their skateboards. We’re seeing at least 15 every morning. I would like to see it be made safe for the children and for the mothers.”

Perry Sexton, a physician who lives nearby, echoed several requests asking that the traffic studies be done while schools are in session and that they also consider emergency vehicles in addition to regular traffic.

“I take care of a lot of patients that live in facilities like this, and so I see how many of these patients fall every day. When a patient falls, they’re going to be visited by an ambulance … and all of those are going to be coming as though it’s an emergency,” he said. “If they’re doing that at a time when there are children who are loading onto school grounds, you’re going to be setting yourself up for some pretty significant accident risks.”

Two more workshops will be held before the development team submits its draft EIR to the city council roughly at the end of this year. The project’s “specific plan” — which will include a zoning change to nearly triple its density — will require a special mail-in vote, probably in a November-January timeframe, DeWald said. If that passes, the project will then go to the California Coastal Commission for approval.

Under that timeline, DeWald said groundbreaking might not come for as much as two years.

Comments can be submitted to Bill Chopyk, Solana Beach’s community development director, at