FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Laura Hunter, Sierra Club NCG Conservation Chair, 619-997-9983.
Sierra Club North County Group (NCG) urges opposition to Palomar Heights at Jan. 27th Escondido Council meeting, citing lack of affordable housing, lack of density, developer subsidies.
At tomorrow’s Escondido City Council meeting, an urban infill project will be decided for the Old Hospital site in the center of Escondido. Sierra Club is opposing this project because the project is significantly UNDER planned density with no affordable housing on a location that is perfectly suited for higher density development. The location is along major transportation corridors and next to downtown Escondido. It does not include any deed-restricted affordable housing.
The Council will also consider whether the developer should be required to pay for the costs of services or not. If development costs are exempted or deferred, the project will cause additional deficit for a city already facing significant financial hardship.
Sierra Club NCG is calling on the new Council to vote its purported ‘fiscally conservative’ values and deny such a give-away. To fail to require full funding of services costs constitutes a ‘gift’ of hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars that serves only improves the developers bottom line/profit and worsen the city’s financial condition. Sierra Club NCG opposes burdening future tax-payers by requiring them to subsidize developer profits.
Such action is even more egregious considering no designated affordable housing is included in the project. The housing crisis in Escondido is a crisis of affordable housing. Sierra Club is advocating for the Council to require at least 70 units of affordable housing at 60% regional AMI. Since the Council will be making amendments to the Specific Plan, it is legislatively able to make changes and add requirements. We request this requirement for Affordable Housing in the project.
Further, the added deficit of $204,000 a year (or $8 million over 40 years) can reasonably be expected to undermine services. It is unclear the city can make the findings of fact required by CEQA related to standards of performance required for Fire and EMT response in the Public Safety element of the General Plan.
Several comment letters are available here including from the Quality of Life Coalition and Climate Action Campaign. In addition, a website has been set up opposed to the project by the Partnership for Downtown Escondido, An Iconic site Deserves a Better Plan. https://www.downtownescondido.org/
According to the city staff report: https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/agendas/Council/2021/012721CCMeetingAgendaPacket.pdf
- The project does not meet currently planning as evidenced by 7 amendments, changes, exemptions to accommodate the project. p.2 of agenda staff report)
- Fails to meet planned density by over 800 units. p.2
- Major negative financial impact to city’s finances:
- Significantly less revenue-generating commercial than required in City planning documents ”If the Project were built in compliance with the Downtown Specific Plan the required ground-floor commercial would result in revenue that could fully offset the financial impact on the City” This amount is estimated at $450,000 annually. page 5
- Keyser Marston found ‘…generally the consultants hired by the Applicant appear to have underestimated costs of services and overestimated property values and the revenues generated therefrom.” p. 7
- Project annual deficit is between $200,000 and $399,000 which the public will have to subsidize, worsening our budget situation. Summary Table of economic analysis
- True costs and service demands of fire and police are inadequately assessed. p. 5
- Does NOT include any deed-restricted affordable housing at any level. p. 14
- Housing affordability analysis done using County AMI. p.15. Note: County AMI is $92,700 but it is relevant for our city that the Escondido Median Income is $28,525.
Sierra Club opposes the current Integral Palomar Heights project because this unique site should:
- Include more density than proposed
- Include a significant % units be affordable housing. We support a requirement of 70 units of affordable housing at 60% regional AMI.
- Have a focus on transportation alternatives and links to the Transit Center.
- Pay its own way and not burden future tax-payers to subsidize it or forego services.
The Escondido City Council is urged to DENY this project and request the Palomar Hospital Board to immediately re-open the RFP to other development interests.