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Felicita Road 65-home development approved in Escondido
 
By Ellen Wright, March 12, 2015

ESCONDIDO — On March 4, the City Council approved the annexation and planned development of the gated 65-home Oak Creek development on Felicita Road.

New Urban West, Inc., has been planning the site for two years and has a history of developing in the city.

The developers already built more than 300 homes in the Brookside and Rancho Vistamonte communities in Escondido.

The council and residents discussed many issues relating to the project, which principal City Planner Bill Martin called the most voluminous Environmental Impact Review in the history of the city.

The city approved the annexation of the 41.4-acre property along Miller Avenue, Hamilton Lane and Felicita Road.

It was part of San Diego County but will now be considered Escondido.

A roundabout along Felicita Road will be installed to slow traffic, which many of the residents were in favor of.

A sidewalk is also going to be installed along Felicita Road and the power lines will be put underground on the project side.

Bike lanes will be painted along the street. Neighbors complained that it's currently unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Today, I cannot ride my bike safely with my brother and my sister in my own neighborhood. The cars move way too fast and there are no sidewalks,” 12-year-old resident Kirsten Hansen told the council.

The majority of the dozens of speakers were in favor of the development.

Marge Russell looks forward to the new neighborhood because she said the area has been overrun by “transients, abandoned vehicles, shanties and drug deals.”

“It's going to improve our neighborhood, improve safety and make a traffic calm street,” Russell told the council.

New Urban West developers also plan to preserve and enhance the Vallecito duck pond along Felicita Road near Park Drive.

Jason Han, partner and president of New Urban West said they will put in benches and the pond will remain open to the public.

City councilmembers praised New Urban West for reaching out to surrounding communities and incorporating their concerns into the plans.

Some nearby residents were against the project because they felt there is already too much traffic in the area and some said they don't feel a gated community is conducive to a neighborly feel.

Attorney Everett DeLano spoke out against the development on behalf of Escondido Neighbors United, a group of residents dedicated to community engagement and protection of Escondido's natural resources.

He argued the homes don't include enough buffer space from the creek.

The buffer spaces create a barrier between sensitive habitat and human and non-native plant species interactions.

Martin argued the wording in the city's General Plan allows no buffer to go through because a separate wildlife agency approved the zero-foot buffer.

On the Draft Environmental Impact Report, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said a 100-foot buffer is recommended but the city's response was that wasn't necessary because the developer will make significant mitigation efforts.

The plan will keep 30 percent open space, which is more than necessary.The homes will be between three and six bedrooms and some will be two-stories.

Councilmember Olga Diaz was the only member to vote against the project because she said she couldn't fully support it.

Mayor Sam Abed said he was involved with New Urban West as a community group and believes they are great developers.

“They listen to the community and they go through the process. They've been going through this for two years and I appreciate their approach to the community,” Abed said.

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