Old strip mall to disappear, not everyone happy about it.
By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
For as long as some people can remember, the small strip mall at 7811 Mission Gorge Road has been targeted for a number of changes that never seemed to happen for a variety of reasons.
That is apparently about to change.
A Carlsbad-based developer, Chelsea Investment Corporation, is moving ahead with plans to replace the mall with a 90-unit apartment complex, much like the developments on either side of the location now.
Chelsea spokesman Matt Grosz says it won’t be long before work starts there.
“We go into plan check process in a week or two. Right now, we’re looking to close on financing in December or January, and starting to move dirt in March.”
Of course, that leaves a number of small businesses located in the strip mall looking at their futures elsewhere.
Kurt’s Camera Repair appears to be the only business actually open. Owner Mike Parsell says he’s already made his plans to move to a bigger location at Mission Gorge and Princess View.
“I’m just as happy to see this happen. We desperately need more space than we have here, and this couldn’t have come at a better time.”
If other businesses there need help relocating, money is available through a displacement agency hired by Chelsea to help out with the search for new space and actually moving.
This is not to say all is sweetness and light with regard to this project. It isn’t.
The Navajo Community Planners advisory panel approved the project, but not unanimously. Planning members representing Grantville, Allied Gardens and San Carlos had some serious questions about the amount of parking that will be available at the site when it’s developed. Much of it is planned for subterranean, or underground parking. The plan calls for 1.62 parking places per residential unit, plus adequate surface parking for residents and guests.
There are also questions about access into and out of the site onto Mission Gorge Road, which is already badly overcrowded much of the time. Chelsea says its plans will handle those problems to everyone’s satisfaction.
The NCP members, while not totally satisfied, gave the go-ahead.
If the NCP members are less than totally happy, some area residents are, to put it bluntly, white-hot with rage over this.
Chris Walsh lives in the condo complex directly across Mission Gorge from the existing strip mall.
“This whole thing has been a pack of lies from the start,” he said. “There’s not enough parking, there’s not enough access in and out, and it’s going to be a disaster for traffic in this area. We can just see people parking here in our neighborhood, on our streets, in front of our houses, and walking or running across Mission Gorge to get to the apartments. Too much of it’s going to be low-income housing. It’s just been one lie after another ever since they started talking about this.”
Walsh would like to see this whole thing stopped in its tracks, and he says a lot of area residents share his misgivings.
What they could do about it is problematic at best.
Chelsea appears to hold the upper hand here, according to its prospectus and literature. Since the land is already zoned for the exact use it’s about to be put to, a lot of jumping through hoops with the city’s Planning Department is apparently avoided.
That compatible zoning apparently also wipes out the need for a community plan amendment (CPA) that would have its own set of hoops to jump through.
All that said, this may not move as quickly as Chelsea envisions. Just from having plans checked when we were doing expansion and remodeling on our own home, I can testify that the plan-checking process can be a long, drawn-out process.
We’ll keep an eye on this as it moves forward, however slowly it does so.
––Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.