Controversial 510-unit Palomar Heights project approved in Escondido

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ESCONDIDO, Calif. – Escondido City Council Wednesday greenlit a development project downtown that will transform a former hospital site into a sizable housing complex with commercial space.

Council voted 3-2 to approve plans for the proposed Palomar Heights project, scheduled to be built on nearly 14 acres of land at 555 E. Valley Parkway and surrounding properties. Under the plan, the project includes 510 residential dwelling units โ€” divided between 258 for-rent apartments, 162 for-sale rowhomes and villas and 90 for-rent senior apartments โ€” as well as 10,000 square feet of commercial and office space.

Valley Boulevard also will be converted into a one-way street with parking and bike lanes to accommodate the development.

According to the city, demand has dipped near the site for medical office uses since Palomar Health relocated to a new 11-story hospital facility in 2012. The Palomar Hospital Downtown Campus and surrounding buildings will be demolished to make way for Palomar Heights.

Project developers say the project will enhance downtown and create more jobs in the area. A handful of organizations and residents agreed with that assessment in their remarks made during Wednesday’s meeting.

“As we collectively look towards the future and continue to envision an even better Escondido, Palomar Heights helps us get closer to that goal,” one person said.

But the main opposition to the project comes from other residents, some council members and Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara on its lack of affordable housing.

Some also are worried it’s not providing enough housing in general.

City Planner Adam Finestone said that the city would like to see affordable housing as a part of Palomar Heights, but that “the city does not have an inclusionary housing requirement that would require that development to provide affordable housing.โ€

“We have a crisis in housing right now and we need affordable housing for low-income families and itโ€™s a perfect location right on the transportation corridors,” said Laura Hunter of the Sierra Club SD North County Group.

In a separate vote, council also approved a developer subsidy of which will impact the city’s general fund by $204,000 each year and will account for inflation.

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