By Karen Brainard
Ramona Community Planning Group members were receptive to the idea of affordable housing geared toward veterans and active military, as presented by representatives of kirE Companies.
Called Patriot Square, the project is proposed for 16th Street, just south of McDonald’s. The development could consist of eight two-story buildings with each building containing no more than eight units for a total of 64, but kirE President Josh Santa told the planners at their Nov. 3 meeting that number was not definite.
Because the project is in its conceptual phase with the county, the planning group was unable to vote on it. Santa said he will bring back a site plan for the planners’ review and vote at a later date.
Santa said he developed the affordable housing idea for military and veterans from his years of living in Ramona.
“My best renters over the years have been military renters,” he said. “They’re very good people.”
KirE Companies, headquartered in Poway, is working on the project with Chelsea Investment Corporation in Carlsbad and Pacific Southwest, an affordable housing management association.
Erin Montgomery from Chelsea said they develop, construct and manage affordable housing and have projects in Santee and Lakeside. She said Chelsea is applying for funding through San Diego County Department of Housing and Community Development, which has up to $1 million available.
Representing Pacific Southwest, Robert Lansing said the management firm would provide a number of services “to empower residents…to improve their life skills.”
Such services could include computer labs on the property, after-school tutoring, arts and crafts classes, soccer, financial education classes and health screenings, he said.
Planner Richard Tomlinson cautioned about drainage in that area of 16th Street.
“Be very careful about that,” he said. “There’s a lot of flooding issues.”
Tomlinson asked if the property had any environmental issues.
Santa said there is a vernal pool and he is working on a mitigation proposal to take to the county for approval.
When Santa said an architectural style had not yet been determined, planner Torry Brean told him that design standards are being created for Ramona and suggested he look at ProjectRamona.com for examples of architecture that will fit in with Ramona’s character.
Planner Angus Tobiason said he was in favor of housing for active military and veterans.
“These people have put their neck on the line...If we have to have low-cost housing, I’m very much in favor veterans get a chance,” he said.
Chair Jim Piva applauded the tilt toward the military.
“This would go towards what I think complements Ramona,” he said.
RCPG Secretary Kristi Mansolf said she would give the draft minutes with the planners’ comments to the developers to take to the county.
In other business:
•Planners approved the expansion of a rabbit research business on San Vicente Road, near Bunnie King Lane. Ramona architect Bruce Steingraber explained that ProSci Inc. is involved in using serum from rabbits for its research for HIV and cancer. The rabbits are injected and the serum is removed and injected into people, he said.
“They need more rabbits to do research,” Steingraber said.
The expansion to raise more rabbits would increase the building area of 3,800 square feet to 28,800 square feet with the addition of metal rabbit coops and maintenance buildings. Steingraber said it will not be visible from San Vicente Road. No lab work is done at the site; rabbits are shipped to a lab in Poway. Steingraber said the county is requiring an administrative permit and may request an archeological study.
•Piva gave a report on the planning group’s Oct. 20 Flood workshop, saying it was informative but it will be very difficult for Ramonans to get flooding issues fixed, especially with only $500,000 from the county earmarked for Ramona.
“When you hear the nuts and bolts of it…it is such a mess, a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Piva.
He added that the county’s hands are tied when it comes to environmental agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and California Fish and Game.
“On top of that, there’s no money,” said Piva. “I feel sorry for those folks in our community. There’s really not much we can do.”
Mansolf said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob thinks there is an opportunity to move Kelly Street higher up the county’s flood control priority list. Kelly Street, which experiences flooding, is listed as number 42.
•Mansolf gave an update on the emergency evacuation route for Ramona. The next step is a memorandum of understanding among all agencies involved, she said.
•Planner Matt Deskovick expressed concerns about more Ramona land being set aside for open space. Deskovick said Ramona is losing its farmland. Piva said the topic will be added to the Dec. 1 meeting agenda.