Seabreeze will house around 25 retired horses versus the current 80-horse capacity.
  • Seabreeze will house around 25 retired horses versus the current 80-horse capacity.
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"So, is it affordable then?" someone asked Jim Rivard of SRM Development. "No," Rivard uttered curtly. The room erupted into laughter.

Proposed facility layout. There was concern about the single road into the site.

What Rivard was referring to was the posh senior residential care facility he wants to build where horses currently call home. Chad Harris, owner of Seabreeze Farms, was at the June 22 Carmel Valley community planning board meeting. Harris said his family has owned the property for about 30 years. The horse facility was built about 15 years ago and he said it has been losing money ever since.

Chad Harris, owner of Seabreeze Farms, said the horse facility was built about 15 years ago, but it has been losing money ever since.

Carmel Valley is an affluent San Diego suburb with approximately 50,000 residents located east of Del Mar. Formed in 1975 as North City West, its original moniker was readopted in the 1990s. Carmel Valley is named for the Sisters of Mercy that had a dairy farm and monastery in the area more than a century ago.

Rivard said it is their intent to complete the open-space trail.

Rivard spoke briefly about his firm and the proposed project that would take a portion of the scenic 33-acre equestrian center and build a memory care center and approximately 123 senior care units.

Design character study by SRM.

There would be three main structures (two to three stories) with an additional six duplex-style cottages for totally independent living at the other end of the property. Rivard said the buildings will be situated to avoid obstructing existing nearby resident views. As far as the architectural design, Rivard said that's up to the community.

White had to remind everyone several times that this wasn't an approval of the project.

Some of the open space would be retained by Harris for a significantly scaled-down facility to house around 25 retired horses versus the current 80-horse capacity.

Rivard said his firm, based in Spokane, Washington has been developing projects in San Diego, off and on, for about 15 years. Rivard said they've been active in California senior housing over the past decade and have built senior housing in San Diego.

Rivard said Carmel Valley was identified as a target market more than two years ago with the goal of allowing seniors to remain in their community instead of being shipped off to "some facility in La Mesa."

"So while it seems expensive — and it is, it can often times be more affordable than living in their home," said Rivard.

The only ask of the planning group at this early stage was to give their support in initiating the plan amendment process. They did so unanimously with some requests for Rivard's team — including to study alternative uses of the property, such as residential.

Before the Q&A began, Ken Farinsky, planning board member, said "I have horses on that property; is that a financial conflict?" Frisco White, the board's chair, asked, "Are you making any money from this?" Farinsky replied, "I'm losing money on it." No conflict, said White.

Farinsky wanted to know how much longer his horses had (probably a couple years). Others asked about traffic, parking, height, noise, and the "goofy" access to the site.

About the latter, Farinsky said the site has a single road that goes into the site with no stop sign at the end — it's just a driveway he said. He wants Rivard to look at how people will get in and out of there.

As far as parking, Rivard said, "A community like this really needs about .70 stalls per unit for residents and staff." Plans are for approximately 200 parking spaces and a shuttle service for residents to travel offsite. The consensus was that seniors don't drive.

One person asked if they might build taller than three stories. Rivard said the zoning only allows for 35 feet.

One boardmember was concerned about nearby residents being disturbed as staff come onto the late shift. Rivard said there will be little, if any, coming and going by staff at night. Some commented that the community keeps losing senior housing and horsing facilities.

Concern was expressed about what would happen to the current open space trail. Rivard said it's their intent to complete the trail and take it out farther.

Farinsky reminisced that the whole Seabreeze area started out with the idea of being a utopia for people to live near their horses but "never really turned out that way."

The board's chair, White, said he remembered Harris coming before the board about 15 years ago asking if residential would be a better use of his property because neighbors had complained about the noise and smell from the horse ranch. There was a 2003 grand jury report about this that found fault with the city in failing to clear the hurdle of the "good neighbor policy" in their handling of the project.

Even though Harris let Rivard do most of the talking, Harris is an experienced player in the world of real estate and development.

More than one boardmember stated a concern that the city would look at their approval of initiating the plan amendment process as approval of the project itself. The One Paseo project was mentioned. White had to remind everyone several times that this wasn't an approval of the project.

Rivard commented on the unusual situation saying that earlier that day the city "had a very difficult time processing it, it's not something they have walk through the door every day." Rivard's company has an option to purchase the land from Harris once it looks like a go.

Rivard's firm, SRM Development, has retained the lobbying firm Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg and Bagley to lobby the city about this project.

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Julie Stalmer July 11, 2017 @ 8:32 a.m.

Mark, Developers have their eyes on that undeveloped land and often make an offer that is hard to refuse. Senior housing is needed but what is also needed are families willing to care for their elderly. I cared for my grandmother the last year of her life and even though it was hard, I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Julie Stalmer July 11, 2017 @ 8:37 a.m.

Beyond this one senior housing project in this very affluent area, there's a bigger issue at play here and it's not that venture capitalists see senior housing as a "hot investment." It's rather the tsunami of seniors that will come of age in the next decade or two that may be in hot water when it comes to being able to afford housing and care.

It's no secret that San Diego has one of the least affordable housing markets in the country. The math is simple - rents won't go down until housing stock goes up. There's no one culprit in this untenable situation, but there are a few usual suspects: communities constantly up in arms over adding density, cities selling off land with affordable housing to developers that build luxury residential units that most San Diegans can't afford, and developers that repeatedly choose to pay a fee in lieu of adding a few affordable units. A fee that rarely ends up in the same neck of the woods from whence it came.

A May report put out by the California Housing Partnership (with input from SDHC) pointed to the rental crisis in the county. It states that renters need to make $6,467 a month to afford the median rent of $1,940. Since 2000, median rent has increased by 36-percent while median income for renters has increased by only 4-percent. Add to that, state and federal funding cuts that led to a 69-percent reduction in affordable housing since 2008 - and it's no wonder things seem a bit bleak for senior renters.

A 2014 Harvard study funded by AARP stated a concern about the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown making households aged 50-64 less prepared for retirement than previous generations, especially among renters. The study suggests that typical senior homeowners have enough wealth to cover 57 months of nursing home costs while median renters can't afford even one month.

With one in five people expected to be at least age 65 by 2030 and one in eight aged 75 by 2040, the federal budget is likely to feel the squeeze. In FY 2013, the social security administration reported that social security and Medicare accounted for 41 percent of federal outlay. As the population ages, this percentage will swell. Add in the number of seniors that could be in desperate need of assistance with affordable housing and care and it could well be a disaster of titanic proportions if not planned for now.


dwbat July 11, 2017 @ 9:32 a.m.

RE: "...could well be a disaster of titanic proportions if not planned for now." Isn't that how we usually do it in San Diego (and other cities)? Only now, with the homeless problem a catastrophe, are they finally getting some funding that was needed at least seven years ago. Politicians love to kick the can down the road, while voting themselves a raise.


Julie Stalmer July 11, 2017 @ 4:23 p.m.

We will likely kick the can down the road, but it's sobering when you really think about it. Families will likely have to care for their elders like the old days. People from some other countries are always surprised at the idea of old folks homes, they don't get it.


Ponzi July 11, 2017 @ 12:40 p.m.

Foreign investors and AirBNB are presently huge factors in the run-up in real estate costs in coastal cities.


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