An artist’s rendering of the Lake Jennings Marketplace. Image: County of San Diego

A plan to build a commercial development on land previously designated by the county as a location for 160 housing units was approved Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors, despite pleas from activists to keep the 9 1/2-acre parcel in Lakeside reserved for housing.

South Coast Development LLC plans to construct a grocery store, bank, restaurant, gas station and three multi-tenant buildings on land south of Olde Highway 80 and east of Ridge Hill Road.

The supervisors unanimously agreed to rezone the parcel and amend the county’s 2011 General Plan, which had called for 160 units of housing to be build on the site. Supporters argued that the area is blighted and in need of the planned amenities and road improvements attached to the proposal for the Lake Jennings Marketplace.

The approved site of the Lake Jennings Marketplace, just south of the lake. Image: County of San Diego

The general plan outlines a framework for future growth and development in unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

County attorneys found that the General Plan change would not negatively affect the availability of housing in the county.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said most of the opposition came from outside Lakeside and cited votes by elected boards representing that area as a sign there is wide support for the project.

The project was approved by the Lakeside Design Review Board on a 5-1 vote and by the Lakeside Community Planning Group on a 13-0 vote.

“It’s a blighted area, really it’s a mess,” Jacob said. “This project that we have before us has the most support of any of the proposals (for the property) that we’ve had before.”

Supervisors rejected the company’s 1999 application for a similar commercial development. The company in 2004 earned approval for a multi-family housing development but did not move forward with its plans because it determined the project would not be economically feasible, said Keith Gregory of South Coast Development.

“We approached some of the biggest apartment builders and some of the biggest condominium developers in the county,” he said. “We were actually disappointed because we were turned down.”

Noise from nearby Interstate 8 would have made housing “next to impossible” to market, he said.

Opponents Joe Brunetto, a local restaurant owner and landlord, and Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, argued that it was inappropriate for the supervisors to modify the General Plan to heed the desires of a developer when there’s a shortage of affordable and moderately priced housing in the region.

“We are in a housing crisis, and that should be the priority,” Shu said.

Shu said this is the latest example of county officials rejecting the General Plan, which took over a dozen years and more than $16 million to complete with the input of community stakeholders. He argued the plan would also increase traffic and, as a result, pollution.

The county says the project will reduce the number of miles that people in the Lakeview, Blossom Valley, Flinn Springs, Rios Canyon and Johnstown neighborhoods would have to travel in order to go shopping. For example, Blossom Valley residents currently have to travel 10 miles roundtrip to the nearest grocery store, according to a staff report.

South Coast Development as part of the project plans to spend $1.2 million on utility relocation and $2.5 million on roadway improvements, including the installation of a roundabout near the freeway, according to Gregory.

–City News Service

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