Tentative step forward for assisted living facility


A massive assisted Living Facility project slated for the 3.97-acre St. John Garabed Armenian Church site along El Camino Real was conditionally approved in June 2023 by the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board – acting in its advisory capacity to the City of San Diego.

The proposed El Camino Assisted Living facility overlooking the San Dieguito River Valley as proposed, would entail a three-story, 40-ft.-high, 104,363 sq. ft. building with 104 rooms (122 assisted living beds and 20 memory-care beds), related amenities, and include some 57 parking spaces. The approval came with the conditions that traffic calming measures to address entry/exit traffic safety issues be installed; that the 40 ft. building height along the south boundary be reduced; and that the project return to the planning board with conclusive results of these conditional changes. The draft states that “with approval of [the various discretionary permits] … the impact of the project is considered to be “less than significant.”

The site, at the El Camino Real/San Dieguito Drive juncture, is located within two jurisdictions – the City of San Diego and the San Dieguito River Valley Park’s Focused Planning Area – that limit building heights to 30 feet.

The River Park Joint Powers Agency Board, for its part, submitted comments that listed “deficiencies in the SEIR [Supplemental Environmental Impact Report] that fall short in providing the necessary information regarding impact to the Park” and urged that these be addressed and corrected before a final decision on the project is made.

The City says all of the “very detailed” input from the planning board and the many draft SEIR comments have been forwarded to the applicant to address the issues raised. Their response will be reviewed by City staff before the project is forwarded to the City Planning Commission for public comment and review. It is anticipated the review process would be completed by the end of 2023 before it goes to the San Diego City Council for a final decision.

A reckoning for Surf Cup?

Seven years after signing a controversial 2016 lease with Surf Cup Sports for use of the former Polo Fields in the environmentally sensitive San Dieguito River Valley, the City of San Diego will soon have to answer for its controversial management of the 80-acre property.

A complaint filed in April 2023 by the Fairbanks Polo Club Homeowners’ Association is asking for a California Superior Court judge to rule on the city’s failure to enforce what the group maintains are repeated violations of both the lease and controlling Grant Deed by Surf Cup Sports as the company has expanded its operations and activities. This includes unaddressed traffic, air quality, noise, and other environmental impacts on the surrounding communities, as well as contentious modifications to the site. Surf surrounded much of the property with chain link fencing, poured a mid-field concrete pad, and most recently, constructed a cordoned-off training compound for San Diego Wave FC, a National Women’s Soccer League expansion team.

Approximately 315 cars on a typical weekday afternoon on Surf Cup’s Field #5. Located in the northeast corner of the 80-acre property, Field #5 is less visible but sees far greater use than the main fields. In addition to multi-day weekend tournaments Field #5 hosts soccer practices and scrimmages nearly every afternoon from 3 p.m. until dark throughout the year. This involves scores of players, their families, and hundreds of cars. Because daily use of Field #5 is not listed on any official Surf Cup calendar, such activities fly under the radar in broader discussions of days, events, or income from the site leased from the City of San Diego.

The lawsuit specifically targets Surf’s aggressive commercial use of the 80-acre property for weekend soccer tournaments, daily practices, and non-sporting events well beyond the 25-day limit established by the Grant Deed that transferred the land to the city in 1983. Those activities now draw hundreds of thousands of people and vehicles each year to an area that was to be preserved as open space in a natural condition as near possible, according to the Grant Deed, “for passive non-commercial recreational uses (e.g. picnicking, walking, hiking, and similar activities), and reasonable support facilities…and active non-commercial recreational uses not involving large assemblages of people or automobiles….”

A previous lawsuit by The Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley (FSDRV) sought to require an Environmental Impact Report to address just such concerns before the city approved the Surf Cup lease. That suit and subsequent appeal were denied based on the assumption that continued use of the property would not exceed the 25-day limit.

Although not a focus of the current lawsuit, Surf Cup is also required by the 28-year lease agreement, to restore the portion of the Coast to Crest Trail that parallels the fields at an estimated cost of $1 million. Other than a cosmetic brush and weed cleanup in early 2022, trail restoration has yet to begin.

In May the City filed a motion to change the venue from the North County Division to the Central District. That motion was denied by Judge Earl H. Maas III at June 30 hearing. Next up is a case management conference scheduled for late September 2023.