Contentious May 9 meeting of Oceanside City Council
In the last six years, the Oceanside city clerk says he can only remember one other time when anyone blurted out “recall” from a city council meeting audience.
“It was when the council approved district elections,” says Zack Beck. “But it was only one person.”
That wasn’t the case at Wednesday’s (May 9) council meeting. A chorus of unhappy locals rudely and loudly blurted out the r-word to the newly appointed mayor, and two other councilmen who ignored 25 locals imploring the council to reject a 99-room hotel that was approved to be built on a slope west of I-5 on Oceanside Boulevard.
The fact that every single resident who spoke said they do not want the five-story Fairfield Inn and Suites at Oceanside Boulevard and its massive concrete retaining wall in their neighborhood was ignored by Mayor Peter Weiss and councilmen Jerry Kern and Jack Feller.
“It looks like a hospital on the hill,” says Michael Witboard who works at Tri-City Hospital. “I bought west of I-5 for a reason. Let’s not sell ourselves short for a two-star hotel.” Witboard says he has noticed soil movement on his property that overlooks the proposed development and suggests the upcoming grading will only cause his property value to endure a further downhill slide.
Other speakers called the development “trash,” “a cement fortress,” and “an eyesore on the hill.” Some said a newly planned U-turn in front of a 7-11 to accommodate the development welcomes more auto accidents.
Ex-Marine Sean Heskew says he bought his seaside home to accommodate his four children but that the new hotel would drastically downgrade his homesite. “I don’t want my children to live in a neighborhood like that.”
The Fairfield Inn project had already been denied by the Oceanside planning commission on a 6-1 vote in January.
“I know we need to bring in more TOT [hotel-delivered transit occupancy tax], but this is the wrong project in the wrong location,” according to planning commissioner Kyle Krahel, who says the hotel might be fine somewhere else. “We need a planned-out gateway. Throwing a hotel there arbitraliry is not good planning.”
“The main objection I had, was this was incompatible with the adjoining neighborhood,” says Dennis Martinek, who rejected the hotel complex as a voting planning commissioner. “There is a safety issue with too many cars entering onto Oceanside Boulevard, which already has too much traffic.” Martinek says he can’t fathom why the council ignored the unanimous resident outcry.
“There does seem to be a cozy relationship with certain council members and developers,” says Martinek. “This is typical of the Oceanside city council.”
Councilmen Feller and Kern both said at the May 9 meeting that they look forward to the TOT revenue that is projected to come in from the hotel.
Although Weiss said he initially had reservations about “The need for the excessive retaining walls and the overall size of the project,” he said he’s decided the project is now “overall beneficial.”
When asked about the complaint stated by some residents that Weiss seems like a shill for the BIA (Building Industry Association), Weiss responded “Not exactly sure what you mean by that, as the BIA generally deals with residential builders.”
The only speaker who said the Fairfield Inn and Suites at Oceanside Boulevard was a good idea was Scott Ashton, who was speaking as the CEO for the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.
But even real estate professionals decried the development at the May 9 meeting including real estate broker Robyn Goodkind (a planning commissioner) and attorney Michael Grehl who lives near the development and has been a real estate developer and broker since 2003. Grehl broached the idea that OCNA (Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association) may file a lawsuit to halt the project.
“There has been some discussion within the OCNA as to whether a lawsuit should be filed,” says Grehl. He adds there is a 30-day window to file such a suit. “The discussion is ongoing.”
Meanwhile, Oceanside’s civic freak flag was flying high at the May 9 council meeting when apparent infighting between council members Chuck Lowery and Esther Sanchez caused a head scratching moment.
Lowery grew up and now lives in the historic Plumosa Heights neighborhood, which is most impacted by the planned hotel. After an impassioned speech about how the project cheapened and degraded his neighborhood, Lowery made a motion to reject the rezoning changes, accept the planning commission recommendation, and stop the hotel.
No one seconded the motion although it was clear Sanchez was against the project. Members of the audience yelled out “Second it, Esther,” but she ignored them and sat silent. An eventual vote had Sanchez and Lowery voting against it, but some wondered if Sanchez was playing politics, since she and Lowery both live in District 1, and she and Lowery will be running for the same seat in November. Did Sanchez not want the record to show that she would second one of Lowery’s motions?
Sanchez was asked via email about her failure to second. She did not respond.
“I’ve been involved in developments for 15-plus years and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a city council behave in that matter,” says Grehl.