OCEANSIDE — A downtown eight-story building with 115 studio apartments topped by 64 hotel rooms received the go-ahead this week from the Oceanside City Council, but almost nobody was happy about it.
The council voted 3-2 for the Seagaze Drive project, which included eight waivers of city standards for things such as building setbacks, parking spaces, landscaping and building height. Mayor Esther Sanchez and Councilmember Kori Jensen voted against it.
Still, as with other high-density projects across San Diego County, a majority of the council said state laws make it difficult for the city to oppose residential construction designed to address the statewide housing shortage. The laws encourage what’s called “transit-oriented development” with taller, more dense buildings and less parking allowed in places with easy access to public transportation.
“I do have issues with this project,” said Councilmember Peter Weiss, added that he would rather see six stories instead of eight.
The hotel rooms will provide “the only real benefit to the city,” Weiss said, because the guests will provide room tax revenue and patronize local businesses.
Sanchez raised concerns about traffic and parking, and especially a waiver that allows narrower parking spaces near the support columns in the building’s garage. She said she has damaged her car at least three times trying to park in such situations.
Tight space in the garage will force more vehicles onto the streets, where they will add to traffic congestion and the competition for street parking, she said.
“It’s time for us to say no to this,” Sanchez said.
Councilmember Ryan Keim said the mayor was being “disingenuous” and accused her of political posturing to appease voters opposed to the project, when there’s little the city can do to stop the development.
It would be difficult for the city to go to court and say it denied the project “because the mayor bangs her door in tight spaces,” Keim said.
“I have serious concerns with the project,” he said. “We are just very limited as to what we can do.
”The building site is 1/3-acre, gated parking lot has been unused for years at the corner of Seagaze Drive and Nevada Street.
Each apartment will be about 300 square feet, with 103 of the units to be rented at market rates and 12 reserved for low-income occupants. The top two floors will be the hotel, and its lobby, the building’s leasing offices and a small café will be on the ground level. The building also includes five levels of parking, partially underground, with 153 spaces.
Apartments will rent for $1,800 to $2,000 a month, which is $300 to $500 less that comparable apartments in the area, said developer Bryan Elsey of Manhattan, Kansas, in a presentation to the City Council.
“There’s just a huge demand for housing here,” Elsey said. “We want to be a part of that.
”The project is designed to be affordable to working people like registered nurses and even Camp Pendleton Marines, Elsey said. Residents will be able to walk to nearby jobs, restaurants and attractions.
“Density in the right places is a good thing,” Elsey said. “Downtown Oceanside, where we have transit, is the right place.”
Several longtime Oceanside residents said the project was too tall, too dense, and would not fit in.
“It sets a precedent that grossly distorts the downtown skyline,” said Lisa Hamilton, a member of the Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association. “We ask that the project stay with six stories.”
Project representative Dan Niebaum of the Carlsbad-based Lightfoot Planning Group said there are already a number of six-and seven-story buildings downtown, including some older residential buildings and the new resort hotels near the pier. Most of them are almost as tall as the proposed 90-foot tall Seagaze building.“
There is a strong precedent for buildings of this height and scale,” Niebaum said.
Short-term rentals will be prohibited in the apartments at the request of the city Planning Commission, which recommended approval of the project on a 5-2 vote in December.
Also at the commission’s request, city staffers took a closer look at the alley access to the building’s parking garage. They determined the access was similar to that of other buildings in the area and would be satisfactory.