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Switching Yard Switch Prompts Ire : Oceanside Condo Owners File Suit to Block Planned Move

Times Staff Writer

City officials were joyous last summer when, after 10 years of negotiations with the Santa Fe Railway Co. and the U.S. Marine Corps, an agreement was reached to move the Oceanside railroad switching yard out of downtown.

The train yard was unsightly, caused traffic congestion and was hardly a catalyst for downtown redevelopment, so the city was elated that the Marines agreed to having the switching operations moved onto federal property at Camp Pendleton.

The 67 condominium owners at Oceanside Marina Towers, however, do not share the city’s glee. The switching yard is to be relocated to 15 acres just northwest of the junction of Harbor Drive and Interstate 5; the prominent 17-story condominium tower is on the southwest side of that same junction and is within several hundred feet of the site.

Locomotives moving from the main line onto a passing track that will lead to the switching yard from the south will make their first switch next to the tower’s swimming pool, residents say.

“The city’s Community Development Commission considered the switching yards obnoxious and offensive in the downtown area, so what did they do? They put them next door to what is probably the most exclusive, well-planned piece of property in town,” said Louis E. Goebel, the San Diego attorney hired by the condominium association to fight the relocation of the switching yard.

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The group’s lawsuit, filed in Vista Superior Court, accuses the Oceanside Community Development Commission of abusing its power, violating civil rights and failing to comply with state environmental laws. A request for an injunction to block the relocation is expected to be filed within three weeks, Goebel said.

Chief among the lawsuit’s complaints is that the city failed to properly notify the residents of Oceanside Marina Towers of the relocation. Goebel acknowledged that a formal legal notice was published in the local newspaper, but he said the notice did not give the specific location of the new site.

The city should have sent notices to the condominium association about the switching yard’s proposed site and notices of specific public hearings and environmental impact reports on the project, the suit alleges, because the condominium’s property is adjacent to the new switching yard.

The train switching operations will generate noise, traffic congestion and air pollution, the suit contends. Seventeen of the 67 units will have a direct view of the switching yard out their living room windows, residents say.

“It is ironic that if you try to describe the location of the new yards, you’d say that they are just north of the tower, yet there’s not a single reference to the tower in the environmental impact report,” Goebel said.

“If completed as planned, the project would have a dramatic effect on the property values of the units.”

He said the lawsuit targets the city’s redevelopment agency and not the Santa Fe or the Marine Corps because the city was the catalyst in the move.

Margueretta Gulati, Oceanside redevelopment director, said the redevelopment commission has “satisfied all legal obligations in terms of environmental review and public notice.”

Besides the publication of the formal notice in a newspaper advertisement, “there’s probably not a single resident in Oceanside who hasn’t read something about this project over the last 10 years,” Gulati said.

The environmental impact report noted that the noise generated by the train movements will increase the area’s noise level by “a fraction of a decibel” and that Marine housing that is even closer to the switching yard will experience a drop in noise because of the construction of a sound barrier wall, Gulati said.

Switching operations will be prohibited between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.


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