Two groups appeal approval of Oceanside artificial surf lagoon resort

Two local groups have appealed the Oceanside Planning Commission’s approval of Ocean Kamp, a proposed resort with a three-story hotel, restaurants, shops and 700 homes to be built around an artificial surf lagoon.

The appeals by Preserve Calavera and San Diegans for Sustainable, Economic and Equitable Development (SD SEED) will send the commission’s decision to the Oceanside City Council. In recent years, the council has given the go-ahead to a number of large hotels and residential developments such as the proposed 585-home North River Farms community, despite significant opposition from nearby residents.

Both appeals raise similar concerns — economic sustainability, water supply, safety issues with the nearby airport, the use of an environmental impact report completed for a previous project, compliance with the city’s Climate Action Plan, and the analysis of details such as fire response times , traffic and energy consumption.

Ocean Kamp is proposed for the 92-acre site of the former four-screen Valley Drive-In theatre, just off state Route 76 at Foussat Road in the San Luis Rey River valley. The project has strong support from the city’s business community.

The City Council approved a previous project called The Pavilion on the site in 2008 that would have been the largest shopping center in Oceanside with multiple big-box anchor tenants, but the shopping center idea lost momentum and was never built.

Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners bought the property in 2018 and designed Ocean Kamp based on the artificial wave concept using the same environmental impact report prepared for The Pavilion. Then in 2020, Zephyr transferred the Ocean Kamp project to a former partner, N4FL Worldwide, also known as N4FL Development, with offices in Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe.

“The Ocean Kamp plan is consistent with existing land uses and would add housing, office space, hotels, and recreational opportunities that allow for increased job creation and economic investments in Oceanside,” said Jon Corn, an attorney and a partner in the project.

“While we respect the right to engage the appeal process, we strongly disagree with the merits of both appeals filed,” Corn said, in an email Thursday. “We hope the City Council, like the Planning Commission and a broad supporter coalition, will also recognize and appreciate Ocean Kamp’s significant community benefits, collaborative labor partnership, and rigorous environmental review.”

Oceanside has one of the lowest jobs-to-housing ratios in San Diego County, states the appeal letter written by Preserve Calavera President Diane Nygaard. Building more homes means more people will drive farther to work, increasing traffic, pollution and greenhouse gases.

“Furthermore, this hotel is being proposed at a time when one was recently entitled (Hilton on the city’s El Corazon property) and then withdrew, another on El Corazon has not proceeded after three years of negotiations, and three, known as the Inns at Buena Vista Creek, are still pending final permits,” Nygaard said in the letter. “There is only so much hotel demand. The viability of this hotel and its impacts on other hotels in Oceanside, two on city-owned land, should have been considered.”

Ocean Kamp will use excessive water while the region faces water restrictions, she said. Also, a recent plane crash on the site illustrates the dangers of being next to the airport.

Also, the environmental impact report completed for The Pavilion project assumed that the state Route 76 would be widened to six lanes. However, 14 years later it remains four lanes with no plans for expansion, Nygaard’s five-page letter states.

The appeal is expected to go on a City Council agenda in the next few months.

San Diego SEED is an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions. Several union members opposed the Ocean Kamp project at last month’s Planning Commission meeting, saying the developer had made no commitment to fair wages and hiring the local workforce.

The North County nonprofit Preserve Calavera has filed Superior Court cases against a number of North County projects to stop development or obtain significant concessions.

The group filed a lawsuit Dec. 9, 2019, against North River Farms, a 585-home, agricultural-themed community proposed for South Morrow Hills. Preserve Calavera claimed the environmental impact report for that project was inadequate, and that the development would reduce public safety, increase greenhouse gases and bring the permanent loss of prime farmland.

North River Farms and Preserve Calavera filed a “notice of conditional settlement” in San Diego Superior Court on May 5, but no details have been announced. A hearing is set for Dec. 2. Nygaard said in May that the proposed deal would “result in a far better project and preserve more farmland.”

Previous settlements involving the nonprofit have created or enlarged city parks and set aside land for open space and natural habitat.

Carlsbad built the Buena Vista Reservoir Park that opened last year on three acres near Highland Drive as the result of a settlement with Preserve Calavera and another local nonprofit, North County Advocates.

Another Preserve Calavera settlement enabled Carlsbad to purchase the 61-acre Village H property along the eastern end of Carlsbad Village Drive in 2020 for habitat preservation and hiking trails.