City of Escondido Planning Department

& Old Escondido Residents Meeting
Wed, Feb 20  |  6:30 – 8:30 PM

 

If you missed the meeting and would like a rundown, here are the notes. If you have questions, you can always email us at information@oldescondido.org.

 

Topics

  • Aspire and The Ivy 

  • Proposal for density transfer program in downtown 

  • Palomar Heights 

 

Speakers

  • Bill Martin, City of Escondido Planning Department 

  • Kerry Garza and Addison Garza, co-owners, Touchstone Communities 

 

Purpose of meeting is to share information and answer questions. No decisions have been made on any of the projects. They are still proposals 

 

Background — Why the new housing projects

  • There is a lack of housing in Escondido. In the 2010 census, it was found that only 2% of the housing was built within the last five years. Only 827 new multifamily units were built from 2008 through 2017 — an average of roughly 82 units per year.

  • Another factor contributing to lack of supply is projects aren’t being built to full density according to the city’s Density Plan. For example —

    • Gateway Grand: 126 units (48 DU/Ac*) vs. the 260 units (100 DU/Ac) 

    • Latitude 2: 112 units (32 DU/Ac) vs. the 345 units (100 DU/Ac) 

    • Palomar Hospital Site :450 units (32 DU/Ac) Proposed vs 1366 (100 DU/Ac) 

*DU/Ac = Dwelling units per acre 

  • New housing development should continue to be a priority for this Council and future ones to help stabilize home prices, create supply for the next generation, and increase the viability of the City’s businesses. 

Background — Touchstone Communities 

  • Two proposed projects in the area: Aspire and The Ivy

  • These two projects are still in the proposal stage

  • Touchstone is a local San Diego based development project. They have been working in Escondido for 30 years. 

  • Company philosophy is "Build smart. Live healthy. Be happy."

  • Nearby project called Park Circle in Valley Center: 632 homes with big community park, shopping center, trails, and affordable housing units. Homes start in 400,000. Touchstone says the project was well received by Valley Center. They could have built more units, but didn’t think it was practical for the area.

How Touchstone got here

  1. Vision for a business park in the city 

  2. Prior City Manager’s suggestion to assess underutilized parking lots originally acquired for redevelopment 

  3. Touchstone team studies downtown Escondido: Escondido needs “feet on the streets” to increase business prosperity in downtown. 

  4. Future of downtown Escondido: Understanding the big picture 

  5. Pieces of the revitalization puzzle: Aspire and The Ivy 

  6. In April 2015 Touchstone began discussions with City of Escondido

  7. March 2016 Formal Presentation 

 

Touchstone project #1: Aspire 

  • Aspire will be in the parking lot behind Filippis

  • 131 multifamily residential units 

  • Studios, 1, 2 bedroom residential units plus 4,289 SF retail 

  • 229 parking spaces total, 76 public parking spaces (17 in the alley behind the building). The other public parking will be in the Aspire garage.  The city will make the parking time limited. 

  • Amenities: Fitness Center, entertaining deck with pool, spa, bbq and lounge areas, clubroom   

  • Infill redevelopment, mixed use, energy efficient

  • Aspire has a very high-end look to attract more business to the area. The architecture of Aspire combines wood, stucco and glass

 

Touchstone project #2: The Ivy  

  • The Ivy will be located at 2nd and Ivy 

  • 127 multifamily residential units 

  • Studios, 1, and 2 bedroom residential units plus 1,175 SF retail  

  • 157 on-site parking spaces, 27 on street parking spaces for guests/public. 2 levels of parking. 

  • On 2nd there will be a bike lane and parallel parking spaces. Ivy will become a one way street.

  • Amenities: fitness center, entertaining deck with pool, spa bbq & lounge areas, clubroom, media room, outdoor courtyard with water feature and seating areas, rooftop deck  

  • Infill redevelopment, mixed use, transit oriented 

  • The architecture of The Ivy is rectangular stucco buildings with smooth, flat walls 

 

Click here to see renderings of these projects

 

The Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) 

  • The Downtown Specific Plan was developed years ago by city council

  • The plan allows for 5,275 residential units

  • The plan includes buildings that are 60-75 feet tall. 60-75 feet translates to 5.5-7.0 stories (using an online feet-to-stories converter)

 

Click here to link to City of Escondido DSP

 

Downtown parking overview 

  • 2,751 public and private spaces 

  • Peak usage is 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Monday-Friday 

  • Farmers market weekday 5 p.m. surplus of 1282 available spaces 

  • Typical Weekday surplus of 765 to over 1200 available spaces 

  • Typical Weekend surplus of 1389 to over 1800 available spaces 

  • Half the cars parked on a weekday are there for over 4 hours indicating they are employees parking. This makes it difficult for the quick in and out parkers. 

  • The perception that parking is limited may be because people are only thinking of the parking specifically on Grand. If people are willing to travel a block or two off Grand, parking is usually available.   

 

Palomar Heights 

  • The property is in escrow to a company that builds residential projects 

  • The plan was submitted to the city on December 24, 2018 by Integral Communities 

  • Total of 424 units on 13.8 acres

  • The proposal has two distinct types of buildings —

    • 3-story townhomes. The units would be for sale. Parking on ground floor with two stories of living above. 

    • 4-stories of living space over parking. These units will be for rent. There is a recreation area with pool. There is not a rendering of what these buildings will look like yet

 

Transferring Density

  • Because the Palomar Heights project is fewer units than allowed/desired under the DSP, the city will implement a density-transfer plan allowing the city to build units in other areas of downtown. 

 

Questions, Comments & Responses

Q - Will the units be condos for purchase or rent? 

A  - Touchstone has not decided. Typically, they would rent the units out for 10 years then sell condos. A resident explained the rentals are problematic to the community; they don’t create a sense of ownership and increase crime. 11 units will be for workforce people. It is for middle income people. Most of the units will be for higher income renters. Rent charged will be $1500-$1600 studios, $2000 for 1 bedroom with parking. This is considered relatively affordable. 

 

Q- The architectural style is glaringly different than city hall.   

A - Touchstone answered that they intentionally went with a different style that complements the current downtown style, but was also cutting edge. Aspire has a more downtownish look. The Ivy has more stucco so it blends in more with the residential nature of the block. Infrastructure has been worked out with utilities. They are energy efficient.   

Q - Concerns about parking were mentioned. There does not seem to be enough overall parking in the new buildings. The majority of people in OE don’t have garages. We have to park on the street.  The parking needs of the new residents will spill into our neighborhoods.   

A - Touchstone responded that millennials are less likely to own cars because they prefer walking, scooters and public transportation. Note the term "multi-family" does not mean families. It means multiple attached units. Most of the people moving into the apartments will young professionals without children or empty nesters. 

 

Q - A resident expressed support of growth and the concept of the building, but the architecture does not fit the area. She doesn’t think it belongs in the parking lot behind Filippi’s.   

A - The Touchstone rep explained the vision that Grape Day Park would be expanded. As part of that vision, there would be residences in downtown. 

 

Q - Is the Aspire architecture set in stone?  

A - Touchstone responded that they were in final review.   

 

Q - Why wasn’t selling the parking lot voted on?   

A - The city owns many properties. It does not require a vote to sell one of those properties. The city council will vote whether to approve the project. Citizens can, however, sign up to be notified by email of council meetings, which they are welcome to attend. (There was a sign-up opportunity at this meeting.) 

 

Q - One resident expressed anger at having the multi-story buildings built in Escondido. He would like to see houses built and doesn’t want “junk like that” built in our city. He wants to keep our city the way it is. 

A - Every city in the state of California is required to build a certain amount of housing. By putting the density in downtown, it helps prevent urban sprawl. The law requires builders provide ½ a parking space per bedroom. Touchstone is making some assumptions that many people will not have vehicles. Touchstone: “People who want to live in core areas can do without cars.” LIttle Italy in San Diego was mentioned several times as an example of a vibrant core area. 

 

Q - Has putting in diagonal parking had been considered for some of the streets in Old Escondido  

A – It is not currently being studied, although the city has discussed it. They look at it in areas where they see a need. 

 

Q – Is the city was going to revise the downtown-specific plan for every developer that wanted to increase density and increase the height limit for buildings? 

 

Q - Will the city build schools?  And where will they be able to build them to accommodate the increase in downtown population? 

A - The school district will have to decide that. The city doesn’t plan to reduce density. Because of the housing crisis, they need to build housing. Any reduction in the density plans would need to be decided by the city council. 

Q - A resident commented that the project will add 1200 cars a day exiting out on Valley Parkway and coming in at the end of the day on Second.  This could actually repress the number of residents going to Grand Avenue because it will be more challenging to reach.   

 

Q - A resident asked if a tabletop 3-d model could be made to show Aspire and the buildings around it so people could get a perspective of how big it really is. 

 

Q - A resident asked if there was a requirement that architecture be built in a certain style. 

A. The city responded that it was never a requirement. 

 

Q - A resident asked about the retail space in Aspire. It is going to be bright and shiny while most retail spaces in downtown are a bit shabby and run down. Won’t that make going to those shops less desirable?  

A - The city responded that it was only 4000 sf of space, which isn’t that much. He also suggested it might inspire the owners of the shops on Grand to spruce up their businesses. They are looking into incentives for land owners to do something besides sit on their property. 

 

Q - A resident expressed support for the plans. Downtown needs people with money to spend to bring prosperity to the local businesses. We need to do a better job to support businesses. Density may not provide prosperity. 

 

Q - A resident commented that people will move here whether we build homes or apartments. They will fill what we build. Do we want to build apartments or homes? 

 

Q - Too many projects are being built at the same time. We don’t need Aspire. 

 

Q - Can Aspire go in the empty space on Fifth Ave & Escondido Blvd instead?  

 

Now what? 

The points from the meeting go into a staff report which is submitted to the Planning Commissioners. These are the points Bill Martin wrote down for the staff report: 

  • Too many apartments — need “For Sale” units 

  • Incompatible architecture 

  • Not enough parking/flow into neighborhood 

  • Aspire vs Heart of Escondido 

  • Need a 3D model of Aspire 

  • Need residents to support downtown businesses 

  • Too much at once 

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