Planning board approves assisted living facility in Carmel Valley

A rendering for El Camino Real Assisted Living.

Despite concerns about traffic and bulk and scale, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board approved the El Camino Real Assisted Living development last month. The proposed 105,568-square-foot building will include 104 assisted living beds, 20 memory care beds on property owned by the adjacent St. John’s Garabed Armenian Church on El Camino Real.

One of the board’s major concerns is the project’s access point, sharing an exit and entry with the church on the curve of El Camino Real. As conditions of their approval, the planning board recommended that the developer and the city provide a new traffic signal at the entry intersection. If a traffic signal is not allowed by the city, the board recommended providing traffic calming at the intersection to address entry/exit traffic safety issues or to lengthen the deceleration lane.

“I believe that any project or development opportunity in a community should as its first priority provide that its contribution to the community fabric is to make it a better community by its inclusion,” wrote Chair Frisco White in the board’s decision letter to the city. “Too often we have had developers build and leave any negative impacts on the backs of the community to resolve. Just following the rules doesn’t make it right for a community.”

The project now moves on to the San Diego Planning Commission and City Council for review. The developers are currently preparing responses to their draft environmental impact report, which closed for public input last month.

Due to the proposed assisted living development’s location, it was also reviewed by the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority (JPA), which includes members from Solana Beach, Del Mar and San Diego.

Per the JPA’s comments, “shoehorning” a project with that bulk and scale into the 3.97-acre parcel is “completely out of character with the surrounding area”. The JPA board recommended that the project’s draft environmental review be updated and recirculated to address deficiencies. They contended that the review dismisses the impacts of the development on the adjacent wildlife corridor and also does not address the impact of the viewshed from the river park’s trail systems and the over 200 acres of San Dieguito Lagoon wetland habitat being restored immediately to the west of the project.

The project is expected to be reviewed again by the JPA board at its next session on July 21.

In May, the Carmel Valley board delayed its decision on the project, encouraging the developers to meet with neighboring Stallions Crossing community. Residents shared concerns about the facility’s three-story, 40-foot tall building looking into the master bedrooms of their two-story homes and over their backyards.

The developers have stated they tried to be sensitive to the neighboring homes by providing as much green space as possible to serve as a landscaping buffer. The project requires 20-foot setbacks and the developers will provide setbacks of 30 feet from homes. According to White’s letter, as a result of the community session, the applicant agreed to remove the balconies and obscure the windows that looked toward the residents. Additional specimen trees were also proposed along the common property line.

At the June 22 meeting, the board discussed potentially further reducing the building bulk near the residents’ rear yards but the option was dismissed by the applicant as it did not work financially or operationally.