A controversial proposal to build hundreds of homes, town homes and apartments near the historic Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside gained momentum this week, with the city's planning commission recommending approval of the project.
The developer wants to create a neighborhood of as many as 420 single-family and multifamily units on 35.5 acres about 800 feet east of the mission, which was founded in 1798.
Hundreds of people weighed in on the Villa Storia development during a commission meeting Monday, with many complaining the project was too dense and would generate too much traffic, while others said it would create needed housing — including some for low-income residents.
Kathleen Flanagan, chief operating officer for the mission and the parish that operates alongside it, said Villa Storia was the "best use" for the land.
"We feel it will have a positive impact in Oceanside," Flanagan said. "It enhances our neighborhood and … given our values, we are particularly supportive of the inclusionary housing."
The commission voted 5 to 1 in favor of the project. Dennis Martinek cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he believed the development was too large for the area.
"There's no project that is all good or all bad," Martinek said. "But I can't support it as it is."
Most of the panel, however, said that the project would improve the area and help boost commercial activity. The commission's recommendation will be forwarded to the City Council, which will make the final decision.
Some residents of the San Luis Rey Estates senior community just north of the property said they would have preferred that the land be used as an American Indian cultural center or something more consistent with the designated historic area that surrounds the mission.
Some said they worried the project and its traffic could increase emergency response times to their community.
But Ninia Hammond, a representative for the developer, said the project would reduce response times because of roadway improvements. The project also includes a one-acre park, wider streets and bicycle lanes, Hammond said.
Other residents who favored the plan cited the prospect of improved property values and more affordable homes.
"We have a housing emergency in Oceanside," said Lita Morales, a member of the San Diego Organizing Project and an advocate for more affordable housing in the city. "It will not solve the problem, but it's a start."