Construction of retirement facility in Rancho San Diego approved

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SAN DIEGO — County supervisors Wednesday unanimously approved a senior retirement facility near the community of Rancho San Diego, over the wishes of a residential planning group.

The board approved the county Planning Commission’s recommendation to let Skyline Church build the facility on an eight-acre site on state Route 94 and Via Mercado, but with these conditions: a wider sidewalk along Campo Road, a safe pedestrian crossing on Via Mercado; and a plan to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gasses caused by the project.

The Valley de Oro Community Planning Group opposed the facility, citing the project’s impact on community character.

Last November, the Planning Commission voted 5-1 in favor of the project, saying it wouldn’t create any adverse effects, and would be close to transportation and preserve biological resources.

The Skyline Retirement Center will feature several structures, 232 units, clinics and pools. Environmental features include water-efficient landscaping, solar panels, walking trails and electric vehicle charging stations.

Proponents who spoke at the meeting said the retirement complex is badly needed for an aging population.

Opponents, including Sierra Club representatives, criticized the church for not keeping its word — dating back to a 1996 letter — to leave those eight acres as open space.

Dan Grant, a Skyline pastor, said the church has “the chance to develop a beautiful parcel that would bring connectivity to the Rancho San Diego area.”

Grant said the parcel isn’t required to remain open space. He also said claims that it would be a “luxury retirement center” were false, and that Skyline has worked to keep costs down.

Jennifer Bergovoy spoke against the project. While a retirement community is generally a good idea, “we don’t need one in that area,” as there as numerous existing facilities nearby, she said.

Further, Bergovoy said the retirement complex will sit in a high-risk wildfire area that’s also biologically sensitive. “By allowing this development, you are degrading the quality of life,” she said.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said that while she understood opponents’ concerns, Skyline “has been an outstanding neighbor in the community.”

Jacob said she doesn’t remember any conditions being set on the church regarding those eight acres, and that times have changed.

By 2030, there will be over a million county residents 55 and older, Jacob said, and the need for senior housing facilities will only increase.

“I wish people could have come together on this project,” Jacob said, adding she hopes “that all Rancho San Diego residents will embrace it.”

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar took issue with attorneys who have sued the county over numerous housing projects, and suggested they sit down with her to determine whether such developments are suitable.

Gaspar said she while leading an exercise group for senior citizens, she noticed the social component was the primary purpose “and it was a beautiful thing to witness.”

A lot of older people are dealing with serious health conditions and struggling to stay in their homes without options, and that can result in unsafe living conditions, Gaspar said, citing a need for the retirement center.

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