Committee reviews new senior housing proposed for Carmel Valley

A Carmel Valley equestrian center is in the process of being redeveloped into senior housing. Last month, SRM Development formally submitted plans to the city for Seabreeze Senior Center, replacing Seabreeze Farms Equestrian Center on Old Carmel Valley Road.

Developers have been working with the neighbors on the proposed project since last year and have shared plans along the way with the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s Regional Issues Subcommittee. The subcommittee met again for a project review on April 5.

Seabreeze Farms has been on Old Carmel Valley Road for almost 30 years, situated adjacent to open space near Cathedral Catholic High School. Owner Chad Harris said his family began exploring other compatible uses for the site as operating a large, high-impact, agricultural use surrounded by a growing suburban community has been a challenge.

The preliminary plans for the proposed senior living community is for a memory care center, a main building that will house 118 units and five casitas with 10 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, according to Ryan Leong, principal with SRM Development.

Harris will partner in the project and will maintain a small pasture and boarding for 15 to 25 “retired” horses.

The current zoning allows for licensed residential care facilities for seniors but the developers will need to amend the precise plan for the area and obtain a conditional use permit. The subcommittee asked SRM to explore all other potential uses for the site and to make a case that the senior care facility is the “highest and best use” for the land and offers a community benefit.

Leong said they considered other approved uses, from childcare facilities and plant nurseries to 40 single family homes or 120 multi-family residential units but none of the other uses made sense economically or as a compatible use.

Senior facilities are “generally quiet, low traffic and low-population generation” he said, noting it is a compatible use with minimal impacts on the neighborhood. By comparison, more residential density will increase car traffic and create more impact on local schools and facilities.

A senior facility still generates car trips at peak times in the morning and afternoon but much less than single family or multi-family housing. Leong said the average age of residents is 85 and many will not drive—the facility also cuts down on trips by offering a community shuttle.

Leong said community benefits the project will offer is maintaining the small equestrian facility on site, improved and expanded trails with additional access points for public enjoyment and senior housing that will allow seniors to remain in the Carmel Valley community.

“There really is a need in this community for additional senior housing,” Leong said.In the market study SRM performed, the closest facilities are Brookdale, Casa Aldea in Del Sur as well as some facilities in Solana Beach and Encinitas—the analysis showed that there is a shortage for senior housing in the area.

The analysis takes into account the certain percentage of the age and income of qualified seniors who would choose to live in one of these communities as the vast majority of seniors still choose to live in their own home or another form of housing choice, Leong said.

“In this region, when you take into account all of the existing facilities, there is a demand for somewhere around 400 to 500 additional units for independent living, assisted living and memory care housing,” Leong said.

The study did not include the 150-units of Hacienda Del Mar, a senior living community still in development for El Camino Real next to the San Diego Polo Fields.

The preliminary architecture is modern in style, with flat, low-pitched roofs. Leong said they have talked with adjacent neighbors and have addressed preserving views into the canyon and open space by lowering building heights from three to two stories and angling the position of the buildings.

Where the new buildings face neighboring homes, the structures will be 18 to 20 feet below. The buildings will be setback 70 feet from the property line and the highest point will be 30 feet tall. By comparison, the current barn is 18 feet in height.

Neighbors have shared concerns with developers about the traffic created by the redevelopment versus the conditions today as there is only one main access road off Old Carmel Valley Road.

Neighbors present at the April 5 meeting said they appreciated the open dialogue they have with the developers.

“When the project first started it was concerning,” said one neighbor whose home is closest to Seabreeze. “They’ve done an amazing job listening to our concerns…we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

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