Ramona planners endorse 60-unit workforce housing behind Kmart

AMCAL displays its conceptual landscape plan for affordable workforce housing on Robertson Street.
AMCAL displays its conceptual landscape plan for affordable workforce housing on Robertson Street.

By Karen Brainard

An affordable workforce housing complex planned for Robertson Street, behind Kmart, received Ramona Community Planning Group’s endorsement after members were assured there will be zero tolerance for crime.

“This is a big concern in Ramona,” planner Torry Brean said at the July 11 meeting, adding that low-income apartments that tend to bring crime have been forced on the community.

AMCAL’s 60-unit complex with a California farmhouse design is proposed for 4.2 acres of an eight-acre parcel on the north side of Robertson Street at Pala Street. Target renters will be those who work full time and earn up to $48,000 per year for a family of four, said Mario Turner, vice president of development for AMCAL. He and other representatives for the project presented the plans to the planning group in April and again in May, seeking feedback. The property is zoned for apartments, so development is by right, Turner noted in May.

“If this was not a by right development, I would be voting no for it because I don’t want to see more apartments,”

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Architect Kevin Newman reviews the site plan and elevations for AMCAL’s affordable workforce housing proposed for Robertson Street with the Ramona Community Planning Group. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Brean said. “But...I think it’s important to understand that this is something that they’re allowed to develop and, I think for me, I will be supporting because I think it’s the best we could get, given what’s allowed. And, if we just say we don’t want it because we don’t like them, that decision will carry absolutely no weight with the county.”

Planners Richard Tomlinson and Matt Deskovick said they agreed.

A resident of the Robertson Street area said he just learned about the affordable housing project and was concerned about its impact on the surrounding neighborhood. He asked whether criminal background checks would be conducted.

“We’re very strict on who qualifies and lives in our neighborhoods,” responded Daniel Hernandez with FPI, the property management company that works with AMCAL.

Hernandez said they interview renters before they move in and check for felonies and misdemeanors.

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AMCAL shows the proposed exterior building elevations for its affordable workforce housing planned for Robertson Street.

“We do work with the police department and we have a neighborhood watch,” said Hernandez.

“We have zero tolerance,” added Turner.

AMCAL has developed affordable workforce housing throughout California.

Turner said they will participate in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.

Architect Kevin Newman, chairman and managing partner of Newman Garrison + Partners in Newport Beach, reviewed the “pedestrian-oriented” site plan and elevations for the two-story buildings with two- and three-bedroom units. Front doors will face the street, and carports or garages will be placed in the rear of the buildings, he said.

The architect said the palette of the residential buildings will be soft while the clubhouse will be the focal point with colors of barn red and greens “that really create a backdrop.”

“We wanted to retain the rural nature that’s obviously around the site,” said Newman.

Mark Schattinger, president of MJS Design Group landscape architecture in Newport Beach, said they heard “loud and clear ‘keep the rural nature of Ramona.’” The landscpaing will have a rustic feel, plants will be arranged naturalistically instead of in a row, and organic materials will be incorporated, he said.

“Connectivity’s going to be important throughout the community,” he said, pointing out there will be play areas, a pool with shade trellises, a dining area around outdoor barbecues, and strolling paths.

The planning group voted to support the project by a vote of 11-1 with Kevin Wallace opposing. Planner Chad Anderson was not present for the vote, and Carl Hickman and Donna Myers were absent.

Turner told the Sentinel the next step will be approval from the county department of Planning and Development Services. He said they hope to break ground around November 2014 and complete the project in 15 months.

   
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