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Representatives from Urban Housing Partners hoping to leave the Navajo Community Planning Group meeting with support for the proposed 996-unit mixed use development on the banks of the San Diego River in Grantville left empty handed last night, after community planners voted 8-to-7 to deny signing off on a community plan amendment needed to move forward.

Residents of District 7 packed the Temple Emanu-el to weigh in on Riverbend, the 23-acre mixed-use development project located along Mission Gorge Road near Old Cliffs Road.

The project has been controversial from the outset and it was no different during the two-hour hearing in Del Cerro.

Opponents reiterated many of the same concerns heard at previous community meetings; concerns about gridlock on city streets; about the 85-foot towers ruining views and destroying the San Diego River, and concerns about inadequate infrastructure and a dwindling water supply.

"The project is beautifully designed," said resident Pat Brooks during public comment. "It's not the development, it's the density that I worry about. It's just way too large for this community, for our roads. We just don't have the infrastructure for a project this big."

Other residents weren't so appreciative of the design.

"We don't need 3,000 more cars on our roads," said one man. "Look at the state of our roads now. Try and drive down Mission Gorge at rush hour. This project is like trying to sell a goddamn Cadillac at a Volkswagen dealership."

Proponents, however, said the project would turn an industrial parking lot to a state-of-the-art, sustainable community. They praised Urban Housing Partners for dedicating 5.3 acres for a public park -- originally the plan called for only 2.2 acres of open space.

Some supporters even wore large-white stickers which read, 'Yes On Parks.' They claimed the park would grant residents of Grantville and surrounding communities access to the San Diego River.

"People living in this development will bring millions of dollars into this community. In these dire economic times we are fortunate to have a project like this," said one resident during public comment.

"People will get access to the park and the river," said a resident of neighboring Mission Valley. "I wish someone would build something like this by my house."

In the end, after nearly two hours of public comment and group discussion, the Navajo Planning Group voted against amending the community plan needed for the developer to move forward. Now, Urban Housing Partners will need to persuade the City's planning commission and the city council without the approval from the community.

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