Village News Reporter
In September 2014, the county’s Planning Commission approved a tentative map to subdivide 34 acres on the northeast corner of Winter Haven Road and Sunnycrest Lane into 22 residential lots ranging between one and three acres. A proposal to build affordable housing on that site and increase the density was brought to the Fallbrook Community Planning Group, which expressed a dislike for that concept.
The proposal was a non-voting item at the Aug. 15 planning group meeting but was intended to obtain community input. The input was all against the project.
“I think they got a very good feel for the community’s response in this particular case,” said planning group chair Eileen Delaney. More than 50 residents attended the meeting to oppose the proposal.
“It was a terrible concept, no sewer infrastructure,” Delaney said. “Traffic safety is just horrible.”
The western third of the site is an abandoned avocado grove. The eastern two-thirds have non-native grassland and remnants of avocado trees. The orchard is no longer irrigated, and numerous dead avocado trees on the property have been removed. During the 2014 Planning Commission hearing, nearby residents were supportive of the homes but took issue with the lack of a left turn lane from Winterhaven or a secondary access road.
Although constraints regarding the south side of Winterhaven Road make a left turn pocket unlikely, the widening of the frontage on the north side of Winterhaven Road would create a deceleration lane for westbound traffic along with increased sight distance. Winterhaven Road along the frontage would be widened to 20 feet of paved width north of the centerline, and an additional decomposed granite path 10 feet wide would also increase sight distance.
Although a left turn lane is not part of the plan, the widening of Sunnycrest Lane to current private road standards would allow for turns from just past the crest on Winterhaven Road.
The property has A70 Limited Agriculture zoning and semi-rural SR-1 land use designation which stipulates a maximum density of one dwelling unit per acre. An open space easement which would allow for continued agriculture and raptor foraging habitat would encompass 2.62 acres on the northeast side, and a drainage easement on the west side would run north to south. The site drains into Green Canyon Creek approximately 500 feet to the south; Green Canyon Creek drains into the San Luis Rey River approximately three miles south.
The Fallbrook Public Utility District would provide water to the project, and the tentative map has individual septic and leach fields which would result in on-site wastewater disposal.
Access to the site was initially proposed from Winter Haven Road, but that street’s vertical curves and sight distance limitations led to a consensus that any new access from Winter Haven would be unsafe. The presence of Green Canyon Creek precludes access from the east, so the safest access was determined to be from Sunnycrest Lane, which is a private street.
State fire regulations and the county’s fire code both limit the length of dead-end access roads serving properties under five acres to 1,320 feet from the nearest opportunity to evacuate in two directions unless the local fire department grants an exemption due to sufficient mitigation measures.
Access from Winter Haven Road would have allowed the 1,320-foot maximum to have been met, but when the access was relocated to Sunnycrest Lane, the dead-end length became 2,170 feet. The project’s fire mitigation measures include a masonry fire wall six feet high on the property’s eastern boundary to protect the homes from fires which approach from the east, an additional off-site fire hydrant which would enhance water supply access for firefighting, and enhanced combustion-resistant construction techniques.
The project is also within an existing single-family neighborhood rather than near non-irrigated wildlands, and the North County Fire Protection District determined that a single access point from Sunnycrest Lane would provide sufficient protection despite the dead-end length.
The 24-foot minimum width for private roads allows 14 feet for firefighting vehicles and associated operations and 10 feet for evacuating vehicles. Sunnycrest Lane would have a median six feet wide, 90 feet long, and four inches high. The median would encourage traffic turning from Winterhaven to keep to the eastern part of Sunnycrest Lane, but the four-inch height would allow vehicles to drive over the median if needed due to vehicle size or if evacuations occur.
Sunnycrest Road would be widened to 24 feet including the median. Sunnycrest Road will remain a private road; if the county were to take over the road, the entire street would need to meet public road standards including 28 feet of paved width, 40 feet of graded width, and a maximum grade.
In August 2008, the Fallbrook Community Planning Group voted 9-0, with one abstention and five absences, to recommend the project in its current form. The planning group also reviewed the project in March 2014 and did not change its recommendation.
The proposal presented to the planning group Aug. 15 would have increased the density to approximately four dwelling units per acre. That would require both a rezone and a general plan amendment. The area is also not within the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s latent powers area for sewer service, so a higher-density project which would require sewer connections would also need the approval of San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission.