Council OKs controversial Rancho Penasquitos development

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SAN DIEGO — The City Council voted 8-1 Monday to approve a Rancho Penasquitos housing development that calls for the demolition of former affordable units to make way for 600 mostly “workforce” houses, condominiums and apartments.

Developer Lennar Homes of California will move forward with the plan to demolish the 332-unit Penasquitos Village development to construct Pacific Village, which will consist of 99 single-family homes, 105 triplex units, 120 condominiums and 276 apartments. Of those apartments, 60 will be restricted to low-income residents.

The proposal faced major criticism from some community leaders and residents of Penasquitos Village, who say that the plan unjustly dislocates economically disadvantaged people, some of whom have lived there since the complex was built in 1970. They also contend that 60 affordable units is too few.

“This renovation, if approved, will make us homeless,” said Jeremy Pagaduan, 19, who lives in the village with his family. “Please don’t be oblivious to the cost of living in San Diego. Please consider myself and my family in your decision.”

The project won the approval of more skeptical council members due to the large number of concessions made by the developer since Pacific Village was proposed two years ago.

Lennar officials agreed not to begin demolition until all the 23 remaining Section 8 voucher holders living in Penasquitos Village have found new housing. The project now consists of 10 percent affordable units, up from none when it was proposed.

The company is also offering residents up to $3,500 in relocation assistance and will give at least 120 days notice before residents will be required to leave.

Penasquitos Village units were restricted to low-income residents until that deed restriction expired in 2010. Monday its rents are not restricted by any government program and the developer could theoretically charge higher rates, but because the complex has few amenities, rents are comparatively lower priced, according to David Stern, Lennar vice president.

Stern said Pacific Village — with rents starting at $1,600 and condominiums starting in the mid-$500,000s — would be important in addressing San Diego’s shortage of middle-income housing.

In addition to the 60 on-site units, Lennar also plans to build 12 additional affordable units in its Del Sur development and earmark 43 market- rate units in the region for Section 8 voucher recipients as part of its response to the project’s opposition.

“We can’t just focus on the subsidized housing,” Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said. “This is a great project that I think is a great balance of both.”

Opponents, including state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, chastised the council for not acting sooner after the city was notified Penasquitos Village would be losing its restricted affordable status.

“What is especially disappointing is the city and the Housing Commission had the opportunity to prepare for a response to this incredible loss of affordable units,” Atkins wrote in a letter that was read by an aide.

That was echoed by resident Martha Sullivan.

“I remember first learning about this proposed project about two years ago,” Sullivan said. “At that time, we were talking about homelessness as a crisis. And we were talking about the loss of low-income housing as a crisis. People have been telling this city what damage this is going to do to our low-income housing stock for over two years.”

The lone no vote was cast by Council President Myrtle Cole, who, after hearing two hours of emotional testimony said she would schedule a special council meeting in July dedicated solely to affordable housing.

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