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Supervisors approve Pala Mesa Highlands project


Last updated 7/5/2007 at Noon

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 June 20 to approve the Pala Mesa Highlands project which will construct 124 homes.

The supervisors approved a Specific Plan Amendment, rezone, tentative map, and Major Use Permit for the project.

The 124 residential units and related recreational facilities would be located on 84.6 acres within areas C, D, and E of the Pala Mesa Private Development Plan. The Specific Plan Amendment creates a density of 1.5 dwelling units per acre, replacing the overall density of 2.75 dwelling units per acre for the Specific Plan Area. The A70, RS7, RV3, and RV4 agricultural and residential zoning was replaced with S88 specific plan zoning including a net density of 1.7 dwelling units per acre and a minimum lot size of 5,500 square feet. The Specific Plan Amendment and rezone did not change the “B” and “P” designators making the development subject to I-15 corridor and Fallbrook design guidelines, and the requirement for a planned residential development (PRD) was retained.

The tentative map, which will become a final map to be recorded when the conditions of the tentative map are met, would develop 48.1 acres of the area with 36.5 acres designated as an open space lot. The map also includes 3.9 gross acres, including 2.4 usable acres, for a main recreation area which would include a swimming pool, clubhouse, playground, open turf area, putting green, tennis court, and parking. A second recreation area of 0.4 acres will contain a private pocket park with a barbecue and picnic area, benches, and an open play area. A third recreation area will be an 0.07-acre passive recreation area which will provide a pedestrian linkage to the project trail system; a private trail 0.7 miles long will be constructed and a public trail will be constructed along Old Highway 395. The Major Use Permit was necessary to implement the PRD requirements and maintain the recreation facilities.

The project also includes public improvements to the intersection of Old Highway 395 and State Route 76 and to the project frontage on Pala Mesa Drive and Old Highway 395. The 36.5 acres of on-site open space will be complemented by 35 acres of off-site mitigation.

The Pala Mesa Private Development Plan, which covers a total of 421 acres, was adopted in 1973. The golf course constructed in 1962 and the Pala Mesa Village single-family homes constructed in 1968 already existed at the time the Private Development Plan (PDP) was adopted. At that time U.S. Highway 395 was the main north-south road carrying traffic through Fallbrook; Interstate 15 was not constructed until the early 1980s. The original PDP encompassed the golf course and resort and proposed additional recreational facilities and lodge units as well as planned residential developments for 691 units in eight areas and estate residential development of 18 residences in six areas along the steeper portions of the site. The PDP had previously been amended twice, adding nine PRD units and removing two residential estate lots. The developed areas include Pala Mesa Greens, Pala Mesa Country Club Villas, Pala Mesa Oaks, and Pala Mesa Fairway Villas.

Of the areas developed subsequent to the PDP, only the 28 Pala Mesa Oaks lots are single-family homes. Most of the 92 Pala Mesa Village homes are single-story, although some second-story additions and other remodeling has occurred as allowed by the site’s zoning.

The PDP designated Area D as single-family residential but limited the majority of units in Areas C and E to two bedrooms with a two-story limitation. Areas C and E allow for 303 units.

Beazer Homes purchased the land in April 2004, inheriting an existing application for development covering 145 lots and a main recreation area of 1.8 acres. “At that time the project faced many hurdles,” said Nancy Chase, a consultant for Beazer Homes. “Most important, the community didn’t want it.”

The county’s Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of that project in January 2006. Beazer Homes reduced the scope of the development. “The project has conditional support of the Fallbrook Community Planning Group. Most important the project has community support,” Chase said.

The new project was heard by the Fallbrook Community Planning Group in October 2006, and the planning group voted to recommend a duplex housing alternative with limits including no more than 130 lots, no more than 20 percent two-story units, and no more than three bedrooms in each unit. The initial Beazer plan was for 69 two-story and 55 one-story houses, although at the March 9 Planning Commission meeting Tony Del Grippo, the vice president of land acquisition and forward planning for Beazer Homes, accepted a compromise of 62 one-story and 62 two-story homes.

“The project before you today represents a true turnaround and demonstrates the value of community input,” said lead consultant Linda Mitrovich. “I think the planning group worked really hard and had a lot of input in it.”

The PDP allowed for 100 percent two-story houses, and while Beazer Homes was receptive to the desire of the community the company also sought a balance to avoid identical houses. “To provide variety and character we created three elevations,” Del Grippo said.

A Subsequent Environmental Impact Report for the amended plan was filed in June 2007. That SEIR indicated significant but mitigable traffic, biology, noise, and visual impacts and less than significant land use, geology, stormwater, and air quality impacts.

“We’ve harmonized with our normal surroundings,” Del Grippo said. “We’ve created our own private enclave.”

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group subsequently voted 10-2 to recommend no more than 40 percent two-story homes and to reduce the size of the largest model, which totals 3,575 square feet of living space. The smallest home will have 2,375 square feet of living space. The lots range from 5,507 to 16,905 square feet.

“We were very pleased based on the history of this project to have Beazer come in and acquire the land,” said James Greco, who represented Pala Mesa Resort.

“Beazer has been cooperative with us,” Greco said. “We’re very pleased with what they have done, how they have tried to assist.”

Local residents spoke both for and against the project, for the most part addressing the home sizes which are larger than other dwellings in the PDP. “Is it right to force this company to build housing that is undersized?” said Ted Felicetti of Bonsall. “I don’t think that is appropriate.”

Linda Torres of West College Street also supported the larger homes. “It looks better and it’s more in tune with the needs of the area,” she said.

“Smaller homes won’t work for families,” said lifelong Fallbrook resident Art Martinez. “I believe that nice homes like these will raise our property values.”

Linda Cooper of Bonsall noted that the two-story homes are situated as not to be visible from the road. “They’ve really gone out of their way,” she said of Beazer Homes.

“If they were to do a like for like product, it wouldn’t sell,” said Jona Carlson of Darla Lane. “There would be many foreclosures. The property values would plummet.”

Carlson was raised in Fallbrook and her children were all born in Fallbrook. “I think this will be better for all of us,” she said.

“The project is very different from the initial version,” said Jackie McFarland of Convertible Lane. “This is a good project that will benefit the area.”

Marie Hughes of East Alvarado Street cited a larger-scale version of compatibility. “It fits in nicely with the surrounding neighborhoods,” she said.

“I do feel that it is in the best interest of the community. The houses need to be large enough for families, not just singles or retired individuals,” said 16-year Fallbrook resident Jeremiah McLeod.

“I would like to make sure that single-family homes and not condos or duplexes are put in,” said Gina Tweed of Via Altamira.

Via Altamira resident David Engle, the president of the Pala Mesa Homeowners Association, noted support for most of the plan. “I support them, but I don’t want the traffic through our village,” he said.

Engle would prefer a secondary access road along Old Highway 395 rather than the planned connection with Via de Todos Santos. “Hopefully that will be addressed so we can have both entrances and exits off Old Highway 395 and not impact our village,” he said.

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group was represented by first vice-chair Harry Christiansen. “The only reason for this rezone that exists is that Beazer wants to build big houses,” he said.

“These single-family homes are three times the size of the adobes,” Christiansen said. “That is a change in character of the neighborhood.”

Christiansen also noted that Beazer combined three separate areas and that the open space preserve is on unbuildable land.

Alice Wheaton of Via Tala expressed concern about the traffic. “I don’t know how we can handle the traffic from 124 homes with all three-car garages,” she said.

“We are very much against the access and egress for this Highlands project that goes down Via de Todos Santos,” Wheaton said. “We are very concerned about the safety of our people.”

Larry Mulvaney of Via Tala worries about the safety of his two children. “The only issue that stands in the way is the issue of access,” he said.

“I’m just concerned that the volume of traffic will cause problems for us,” Mulvaney said. “Otherwise I think it’s a good project.”

Len Berkstresser of Diegos Court noted that not all of the proponents lived nearby. “Those of us who oppose this project are legitimate local grass-roots residents,” he said. “If you approve this project you will be ignoring the wishes of the citizens of the local legitimate grass-roots community.”

Margaret Kofran of Via Altamira also cited the traffic. “I think it would be a tremendous impact,” she said. “My opposition is the fact that the traffic would continue through our village, impact us tremendously.”

Antonia Niciphor of Via Almonte addressed the home sizes. “The smallest house they plan to build there is two times the largest house in Pala Mesa Village,” she said.

Supervisor Bill Horn noted that the Fallbrook Community Planning Group didn’t receive 100 percent of what they wanted but obtained much of their desires. “I think the Fallbrook Planning Group had a tremendous impact on the outcome of this development,” he said.

“I think that you have produced a better product, a lot better product,” Horn said. “I think this new plan fits the community a lot better than the old one.”

Supervisor Pam Slater-Price noted that change rarely occurs without opposition but that replicating a historic market may result in an inferior product. “Today’s market is different from the market of the 1970s and 1980s,” she said.

The supervisors had heard the old Pala Mesa Highlands project in 2004 before remanding it back to the Planning Commission. “The new project is like a case study on how to take a bad project and make it into a good one,” Slater-Price said.

Slater-Price noted that Via de Todos Santos exists only to provide access into and out of the existing development and that most vehicles from Pala Mesa Highlands would not be going to those streets. She noted that the secondary access road was primarily for emergencies and that traffic on Old Highway 395 would be better served by having one fewer intersection. “In the end, after the development is completed, the people who have concerns will probably feel that their concerns will not be significant,” she said.

“I do think it demonstrates how a project that started off being a very bad project turned out to be a very good project,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

Jacob noted that the planning group affected significant changes. “Although it’s not 100 percent, it sure is real close,” she said.

The Board of Supervisors hearing occurred four days after part of Highway 76 west of Interstate 15 was closed due to a fire, and Jacob noted that the Pala Mesa area was fire-prone. “It is extremely important to have two access points,” she said.

Even Christiansen was somewhat accepting of the project as approved. “To a certain extent we feel like we’ve won,” he said. “We definitely changed that project.”


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