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Solana Beach electorate faces vote over proposed residential senior-care development

For the first time, Solana Beach voters soon will exercise the right they gave themselves nearly 19 years ago to decide whether the city’s general plan can be altered to allow more intensive uses.

A special election will be conducted May 7 to ask the electorate if it will authorize a change to a tiny section of the general plan, the city’s master land-use guide.

In November 2000, city residents passed Proposition T, the Community Protection Act, with a 62 percent approval rate. No one until now has submitted a land-use proposal within the small, mostly built-out city that triggered the act’s application.

The currently proposed general plan change would theoretically allow a senior-care apartment development, with a maximum of 99 beds, on 2.9 acres at 959 Genevieve Street that abut the east side of Interstate 5. The general plan now calls for the property to be developed with single family homes on minimum 1/2-acre lots.

Passage of the ballot question labeled Measure B would not approve the actual project, which would ultimately need the City Council’s blessing.

John DeWald of project developer RhodesMoore LLC said it has taken about eight years of working on the concept of the assisted living and memory care facility to get to this point.

The company decided to create a specific plan, which details what would be built and where, and go through the election at the suggestion of city officials. The firm will pay the approximately $150,000 to $175,000 cost of the election.

Mail-in ballots should reach the city’s approximately 9,000 registered voters by April 22, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters website.

“It’s not a bad process, but it takes more time and effort, and it’s a risky one because you’re subject to the whims of people,” DeWald said.

As now configured, the plan envisions a 77,000-square-foot structure offering 87 apartments with room for 93 beds, plus a fitness center, library, dining room, bar, gardens and other features.

Oregon-based Frontier Management, which specializes in operating senior-care facilities throughout the West, would run the Solana Beach site, which is situated across from a residential neighborhood lining Marine View Drive.

“This will bring another beautiful opportunity for seniors to stay in Solana Beach,” said Frontier CEO Greg Roderick. “It is a thoughtfully laid-out community that will appeal to (its) residents and give residents a purposeful life. ... I think it will be a fantastic addition to the town.”

Some neighbors have voiced objections to the project based on several concerns, including increased traffic on Marine View, sections of which are winding and narrow without curbs and sidewalks.

“We are opposed to the project as it is currently being represented to voters,” said David Roper, president of the Marine View Homeowners Association. “There’s a lot of issues that the developer is not addressing.”

The biggest problem, according to Roper, will be traffic and street safety on Marine View and other streets near the project site.

DeWald said the city to date has not required RhodesMoore to plan improvements to streets in response to the project, which is expected to add a maximum of about 270 vehicles per day.

He contends the visits to and from the site will be spread out throughout the day since employees will be working around the clock in shifts.

Also, DeWald said, motorists also will probably travel back and forth along the northern route from I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe to reach Genevieve, rather than the more circuitous route to the south along Marine View to reach Via de La Valle and the freeway.

Roper disagrees with the analysis.

“As a homeowner who lives there and drives those roads every day, and walks my dogs there, I just don’t buy the idea that people are only going to go in one prescribed way to that facility and that the roads are fine. We just don’t believe they are.”

He said he and other residents often take the southern route to reach the freeway to avoid traffic on Lomas Santa Fe.

He and others also doubt the proponents’ contentions that the senior housing to be provided by the project is needed because of a shortage of it in the city.

Opponents also question whether the site is appropriate for a large senior facility given that it will be prone to noise and smog from the adjacent freeway.

DeWald said the interior will be soundproofed to reduce the noise to a negligible level, and the building will itself serve as a buffer to other parts of the property.

Roderick said to his knowledge there is only one other similar facility in the city and that proximity to the freeway as well as a nearby shopping center make it a desirable locale.

He said residents at assisted living and memory care centers typically enjoy being around and seeing activities with which they are familiar.

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