New senior community approved in Carmel Valley

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board unanimously approved the new Seabreeze Senior Living center at its Oct. 25 meeting. The new senior living facility will replace the existing Seabreeze Farms Equestrian Center on Old Carmel Valley Road.

The main building on the property adjacent to Cathedral Catholic High School will house 104 assisted living units as well as a separate memory care wing with 14 units. Seabreeze will also include five one-story casitas with two units each for independent living.

The current zoning allows for licensed residential care facilities for seniors but developers SRM Development will need to amend the precise plan for the area and obtain a conditional use permit.

Seabreeze is expected to go before the San Diego Planning Commission for approval by the end of the year or early 2019.

Ryan Leong, principal with SRM Development, said while not many in the immediate neighborhood were using the equestrian facility, there is a growing senior demographic and a shortage of senior housing in the area.

“This project is going a long way in helping meet that demand,” Leong said.

The property on Old Carmel Valley Road has been an equestrian center for almost 30 years. Owner Chad Harris has said it became challenging to operate the fairly large agricultural use surrounded by a growing suburban community, which prompted him to explore alternate uses for the site that would be compatible with the zoning and a benefit to the overall community.

Leong said the senior living community was selected as the “highest and best use of the land,” as it has minimal impacts, is a quiet neighbor and a low-traffic and population generator. The average age of residents will be 85 years old and only about a quarter of the residents will have a car, Leong said. By comparison, he said more residential density would increase car traffic and create more impact on local schools and facilities.

Of the 32-acre site, only 8.78 acres will be developed, leaving the remaining 24 acres as open space. Harris will maintain a small pasture and boarding for 15 to 25 retired horses and the project will provide improved access to public trails in the open space, including a connection alongside the Cathedral Catholic school property from Del Mar Heights Road. Trailheads open to the community from the Seabreeze property will wind through the open space and connect at Carmel Knolls Drive.

Leong said that as part of the process over the past year, they have met “extensively” with surrounding neighbors, the homeowners association, the high school as well as residents across the canyon. A focus has been placed on preserving views and keeping common areas and the main entry away from the adjacent community, facing the canyon instead. Per a rendering provided by SRM, the project will not be visible to residents across the canyon and landscape screening will be used to shield views from the immediate neighbors.

The biggest changes from the community involvement has been in the design, which evolved from modern architecture to a Spanish Colonial style that better fits in with the architecture seen throughout the community.

Neighbors said that Harris has been more than accommodating throughout the process, open to meeting frequently for one-on-one conversations, “There have been more meetings with neighbors than any project I’ve been a part of,” Leong said.

Residents said they appreciated the outreach effort.

“I love looking at the horses and I’m going to really miss that because it’s part of what makes the community special,” one neighbor said. “If it has to change, this has been a good experience.”