Apartment project proposed near Encinitas Greek Orthodox church wins commission approval

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Pre)

Plans call for 61 units, split between two multi-story buildings


A proposal to add 61 apartments next to the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church property won approval Thursday, Jan. 19. from the Encinitas Planning Commission.

The commission’s vote was 4-0, with Chair Kevin Doyle recusing himself due to a conflict of interest. The item does not require a hearing before the City Council.

Plans call for 49 market-rate apartments and 12 low-income ones, split between two, multi-story buildings. Also planned are outdoor dining areas, a fire pit and a bocce ball court. It’ll all go on a 2-acre, church-owned, vacant parcel just north of the current church complex on Manchester Avenue.

Famed for its golden dome and its annual Greek festival, the church already has one housing development — 30 apartments for seniors located behind the church building. Those apartments have low rents, but are not officially designated as low-income housing, John Wurster, the development manager for the new housing project, told the commissioners Thursday, Jan. 19.

Both he and architect Maxine Ward said great care was taken to make the proposed apartments blend well with the church building and the senior apartments.

She said they absolutely did not want a “Motel 6” look.

“There’s a lot to like about the design,” Commissioner Susan Sherod told them after listing off the many things she admired.

Her list included the landscape plan’s numerous native plants, the project’s proposed vegetable garden area, the plans to keep existing Torrey Pine trees on the site, and the small size of the individual apartments.

“In certain ways, you’re exceeding all our criteria,” she told the developers.

Commissioner Steve Dalton said he echoed many of her comments, while Commissioner Chris Ryan said her one criticism was that the buildings were going to be painted all white and she’d like some blue accents to break the white up.

While he voted in favor of issuing the project the permits it needed, Commissioner Robert Prendergast said that it “kind of bums me out” that only 12 of the proposed apartments will be set aside for low-income people. He said he wished all of the units were designated as low-income and the developers were putting more units on the site, noting that they could have built 81 rather than 61 under state Density Bonus Law rules.

While Prendergast said he wanted more units, the other commissioners said they liked the design as it was and a resident of the church’s senior housing complex said he worried about what the current proposal would do to traffic issues on Manchester Avenue.

“I want to see a quality and safe project here and I have some concerns,” resident Larry Pell said.

Making left turns out of the church property now is “downright dangerous,” he said, adding that he wished there was a traffic light included in the plans.