Proposed senior living facility faces concerns

Residents were able to air their concerns about about the proposed development of a senior living facility on Via de la Valle at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues subcommittee. 

The Hacienda del Mar project, with independent and assisted living and memory care units, is proposed on the 23.88-acre site next to the polo fields, currently a dirt lot.

Several residents from De la Valle Place across the street, as well as from Polo Place on the hillside above the property, said they are opposed to the “overbuilt” project’s density and complained that they have not been properly notified as the project moves through the city’s process.

Bret Bernard, the developer Milan Capital’s director of planning and development, said the city does have noticing requirements, but the project is not yet in that stage. They have just completed their second cycle of comments with the city planning department and they hope to resubmit in mid-October. Bernard said they expect the following six months to be spent on a full environmental impact report before the formal review process begins.

Residents off De la Valle Place, like those living in the Coral Canyon neighborhood, live in San Diego County not city and wanted to make sure their voices would be heard in the process.

Milan Capital took over from the previous developers close to three years ago and has been working with the planning board and various residents to help shape the project.

“We wanted to plan it from the outside in, not from the inside out,” Bernard said.

The previous plan was denser, with 225 units spread out across the entire property in casitas, leaving no view corridors, Bernard said. The new project will have just 38 percent lot coverage, with the development clustered on the eastern side of the property, tucked against the hill with about 150 units in a mixture of one- and two-story buildings. Eleven acres of the site, on the western side closest to El Camino Real, will be left as open space.

The city has requested that the architecture pick up on surrounding neighborhoods. As Bernard said, there is a mixture of Mediterranean, Tuscan, Spanish, modern and ranch around them, so they decided to pull the Tuscan elements from the Gatlin Development building across the street with their design. Preliminary architecture includes stone, archways and earth tones with the massing broken up by angling the buildings and with the use of landscaping and trees. 

The project will require about 10 to 12 feet of fill to get the project out of the floodplain —several residents expressed concerns about the water as the site fills with water nearly every time it rains. Bernard said they expect to handle water better than it is being handled currently.

For staff and resident parking, Hacienda del Mar plans to be 80 spaces over the city’s required parking — as Bernard explained, senior housing has the lowest amounts of trips generated, far less than any other use and additionally less demand at peak traffic hours.

One resident pointed out that it will still generate more traffic than if there were just five estate homes on the property.

Cory Hao, a resident of Polo Place, said the concerns of the seven homeowners associations in the Rancho Del Mar area are all surrounding the environmental review.

Hao said he believes the project is subject to Proposition A, passed in 1985, which states that any development on agriculturally-zoned land is to be very low-density housing or equestrian use. Development any more intensive than that must go to a vote for approval.

Over the past few years, the planning board and the developers have had lots of discussions about Prop A. In 2012, the San Diego Planning Commission weighed in, finding in favor of the developers that a continuing care facility is consistent with an “intermediate care facility,” a use that was allowed in the zone before 1984 and should be allowed without a vote, only a land development code amendment.

At the time, the planning board disagreed with the finding.

“This is something that’s bedeviled us for many years,” said subcommittee co-chair Anne Harvey. “The agricultural zones, the city put them on properties in order to keep it relatively un-urbanized, providing a break in urbanization… Open space and agricultural zones don’t mean you can’t build anything.”

Bernard noted that the development is at about 9.94 percent of site coverage, under the Prop A standard of 10 percent, and under what five estate homes would be.

Reviewing the proposed architecture, Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White encouraged them to keep an open mind and perhaps pick up inspiration from the river valley so it won’t just look like a bigger version of the Gatlin building.

“This is a big development,” White said. “Be creative with that development so we can end up with something that everyone can be proud of.”

Another resident said Tuscan is beginning to look very dated, like “green shag carpeting.” She requested they do something fresher, beachy and lighter like the coastal-modern style.

The developers plan to return to the planning board for review, possibly at the Oct. 27 meeting as the board is dark in November and December.

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