Encinitas’ first farm-themed housing community wins approval
Project includes 250 homes, 5.5 acres of farmland, farm-to-table restaurant on Quail Gardens Drive
The city’s first farming-focused housing community won unanimous permit approval and much praise from Encinitas planning commissioners Thursday, Dec. 17.
“My first impression of this project is it’s really kind of brilliant,” Commissioner Kevin Doyle said.
Commission Chairman Bruce Ehlers compared the project to the city’s iconic, historic Olivenhain Meeting Hall, saying it “has the possibility to be a defining location in the community for 50 years or more.” Commissioner Brett Farrow said it was “something we’ve all been seeking” and praised it for being a homegrown idea put forward by two Encinitas residents.
Commissioner Susan Sherod said it would “set the bar” for any others that come forward next, and Commissioner Amy Flicker said she agreed that the plans were impressive, but expressed concern about the project’s likely traffic impact to busy Leucadia Boulevard.
The new development, to be called Fox Point Farms, is proposed to go on 21.5-acre site at the intersection of Quail Gardens Drive and Leucadia Boulevard. Plans call for the construction of 250 homes, of which 40 will be set aside for very low income families. Also included is a 5.5-acre farmland area, a farm stand, a farm-to-table restaurant and a community recreation center.
It’s part of a national movement to establish farm-focused housing communities known as “agrihoods” that aim to connect people with agriculture.
Fox Point’s developers, Nolan Communities, sought commission approval for a number of city permits, including a coastal development permit and a design review permit, as well as special exemptions from city building codes allowed under the state’s Density Bonus Law.
Brian Grover, a managing partner with developer Nolan Communities, told the commissioners that the community has been designed “on a pedestrian scale” with a heavy emphasis on connecting both the farming operations and the economically diverse residents who will live in the homes, apartments and condominiums scattered about the property. The community will contain 40 housing units for very low- income people, though it’s only required to provide 25 to receive exemptions under the state’s Density Bonus Law, he noted.
The farm aspect of the community will be integrated into everything from a restaurant that features on-site grown produce to an “edible” paseo between the homes where passing pedestrians can pick their own fruit, Grover said. They’ll even be raising livestock, including chickens, on the site, he said.
Known as the Dramm & Echter property, the site currently contains many greenhouses and one single-family home. It’s one of 15 properties designed by the city last year as places where increased housing density would be allowed in order to satisfy state housing requirements. It’s the first of those 15 properties to win project approval, city planners said.
Most of the neighboring homeowners who provided public testimony to the Planning Commission on Thursday, Dec. 17, said they initially were opposed to the development plans, but said Grover has worked with them for many months to resolve their concerns and has redesigned the project with their needs in mind. They repeatedly thanked him for supporting their key request to have emergency-only vehicles access Sidonia Street, rather than using it as a general vehicle access spot for the development.
However, an attorney for one group of neighboring property owners told the commissioners that his clients still have unresolved issues and asked for the Thursday night, Dec. 17, vote to be postponed.
Commissioners did consider postponement, but not because of the attorney’s request. They debated continuing the item after their detailed discussion on individual elements of the development plans went well past their scheduled 10 p.m. meeting ending time. Ultimately, they twice agreed to extend the meeting and reached a unanimous vote on the development plans just after 11 p.m. They placed some extra conditions on the property, including requiring an open space easement on the farmland area and preservation of any mature trees on site, “if possible.”
“Thank you for staying long ... it was well worth it, guys,” Ehlers said as the meeting concluded.
— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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