Friday, July 14, 2017

• Questions About The Camelia Townhouse Project For Wildomar's Planning Director

A lot has been said about the 25 acre, 163 unit townhouse project that is being pitched by developer Bill Lo and spokesman Larry Markham. Most of it has been badly exaggerated to the point of teetering between misinformation and disinformation circulating on various social media sites.
The single family homes shown on the left side of the image are briefly mentioned 
below when the discussion turned to a future signal light where the orange circle is.

I'm going to break this into two blogs.

The first will be the highlights of a 45 minute conversation I had with Wildomar Planning Director Matt Bassi. I asked him several basic questions about maps, zoning and the Camelia project specifically.

Expect it to be dry and with little (if any) opinion... just the facts ma'am. The other one will shine a light on the claims made against this project, but no need to mix the two here... making it an impossibly long read.

What is the difference between a General Plan and a Zoning Map?

Matt Bassi
The General Plan land use map, that establishes priority land uses for the city. It divides the whole city into land use categories, based on public input from the round-table prior to incorporation. 

The land use map, that's the hierarchy in terms of General Plan and zoning, the hierarchy is that everything starts with the General Plan. 

In this case, it has the existing MHDR land use designation for the Camelia project. That hasn't changed since incorporation, it's been that way. That's why you don't see the Cameila project proposing a GPA (General Plan Amendment) to increase the density.

The other thing the land use map does, that establishes all the densities for the city. (referencing the map on the wall behind me) You see all the different colors.
What people get mixed up on is they think the zoning establishes the density, it does not. The General Plan establishes the land use, what it can be used for... whether it's residential, industrial, commercial. For residential land uses the General Plan also establishes the density ranges. Whatever designation you've got, like MHDR you can build 5 to 8 units per acre, that's the range. It has to be within that range.

The zoning should match the General Plan land use. State law requires that to take place. Now, had the county gone through the zoning consistency program back in '03 it probably wouldn't have been so bad [in Wildomar]. We have a lot of non conforming parcels. Be that as it may, the zoning establishes how you develop the site. It's development standards such as setbacks, building height, parking, landscaping, where the roads should go internally. 

That's really the basic difference. This (pointing to the zoning map) is secondary to that (pointing to the General Plan Land Use map). So that's why, in [developer] Bill Lo's case, [where] the site is zoned R-R, and the R-R is the holding zoning category that the county established when they don't know what to do with the zoning. 

That's why his proposal to the zone from R-R to R-3 is necessary to match the MHDR land use designtion.

We have a zoning consistency table in the general plan. It basically [asks if a] zone is highly consistent, conditionally consistent, not consistent or inconsistent... the four categories. The R-3 is highly consistent with the MHDR [designation].

The R-3 zone allows you to do condominiums, apartments, townhouses, at the density established by the land use [element] at 5-8 units per acre.

In terms of state law, that (the general plan) takes precedence over development in the city.
If someone said, "Well, I've only heard of the zoning map, I asked when I bought my house 'What is that vacant lot behind my house zoned for?' Why are there two different maps?"

Because the state requires us to have two different maps. You have to have a land use, and you have to have a zoning map. That is the same for every city and county in the state of California.
From what you would know, other cities that have been around longer, do they have similar conflicts between the two maps?

Not to the extent that we do, because we're a [relatively] newly incorporated city. I've tried for the last three or four budget cycles to get moneys allocated so that I could do a zoning consistency program.

What that means is that we'd take... the major inconsistencies, which are the different categories, and use zone changes to match the General Plan.

That was going to be done so that the two would match —but they don't. It's not against the law, but state law says you should have it matching. So, before someone develops, what do they do? They're going to have to do a zone change to match that land use, to build their project.

That's why the zone change [for the Camelia project] has been brought forth. If the zoning was already R-3, and the land use is MHDR, all's he'd have to process are the development plans, the tract map and the plot plan to develop the site. 
So then here (pointing to the map where the proposed project is), you said that's —how many units to the acre... 5 to 8?
Area in question is the dark mustard color area near the bottom middle. 
The red has long been slated for Commercial Retail.

This (the Camelia Townhouse Project) is around 6½. It's right in the middle of that 5 to 8. Keep in mind, and we said this at the [June 21st Planning Commission] meeting, that particular site has had a density range from 2 to 8 units to the acre prior Murrieta incorporating.

What's the cost estimate to make the zoning map match the General Plan?

For an individual application? Our zone change fee is $3577. For a zoning consistency [of the two maps], in the past I've asked for $50,000 [from the council]. It's going to be $50,000 to $100,000 with the CEQA  —that you have to do, because it's a legislative action. 

There are exemptions within CEQA, when you do an [individual] zone change, because you're basically changing the zoning to match the General Plan. But when you do a wholesale [change] we have a little over 370 parcels in the city that are inconsistent with the General Plan.
Somehow I had a bigger figure in mind. I must have been thinking of something else. Perhaps for a complete new General Plan?

No, no... to do a whole new General Plan you're talking about a million plus; a million to two million most cities spend. 
What's the estimate of how many car trips a day will the Camelia Townhouse project generate? I ask this because one postcard that was sent out to some residents suggested that the project would usher in an additional 30,000 cars a day.
A cellphone image of the original postcard (with the pertinent quote highlighted).

This project isn't going to generate 30,000 trips.
(Mr. Bassi was unable to locate the actual numbers during the interview, but before I arrived back home they were sitting in my inbox.) 
The 163-unit Camelia project will generate 953 daily trips not 30,000 as has been stated.
When they say "30,000 additional cars" after Jefferson gets extended, and even if they were to say that the most of that number would be originating from outside of the Camelia Townhouses, I still don't buy their assertion with that number. Nobody is going to use Palomar as a shortcut to Temecula that isn't already doing so... unless you have an app that is telling you how to get around a traffic jam.
[I'm guessing that] where they're getting that number, at full build out, based on standard IT, which is Institute of Transportation Engineers, those lanes can handle 15,000 cars a day. That's where that number came from.

This project will not generate 30,000 car trips a day. That's just the capacity of the Jefferson Avenue/Palomar roadway at full build out.
When will Palomar be widened from Murrieta city limits to Clinton Keith?

As Dan [York] will tell you, and it's probably a better question to ask Dan, but he basically said, "As development occurs, that's when we get the dedication and the right of way improvements."
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We don't have the money to go in and just do the widening now. [...] In the ideal situation it would be built out. [...] As development occurs that's when you go in [and do it]. Unless, you get money, like we did for the Clinton Keith bridge. Then you get money from WRCOG or the county to go in and just get the right of way, get the dedication and make the improvements. It can take a long time.

Typically, it's as each property is developed, the city gets the dedication and has the applicant/the developer build the right of way to its full width.
Was I hearing correctly that if the Camelia project had been half acre homes instead of townhouses, the developer would still have had to request a zoning change?
Everyone wants them to build to the R-R designation, that zoning requires half acre lots. However, we wouldn't support a tract map for half acre lots because the General Plan says 'you have to have 5-8 units to the acre'. A half acre subdivision only gives you 2 units to the acre. 

If they came in and said, "Matt, I don't like that land use category, I want to do half acre lots." We would have said "yeh", no problem, we'll change the land use from MHDR down to LDR, which is Low Density Residential — which allows 1 to 2 units per acre, so that it would match.
If the developer pays into a signal light, then how long until the next developer pays his share and the signal is installed?

They pay their fair share when they start pulling permits. When the next developer, Jeff Rhoads who has 131 lot R-1 subdivision on the west side [of Palomar] (link to agenda for December 2, 2015 PC meeting about it), when they start pulling their permits, they'll pay their fair share for that signal. Then as development occurs going up, they'll pay their fair share. 
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There are other funding mechanisms. If we got money from WRCOG we could do that (install the traffic signal). One other option would be to have the applicant pay the full cost, upfront now, enter into a reimbursement agreement so when development occurs, then they pay their fair share, and that money goes to him (Bill Lo) because he built the facility already. But that's not something we can force.
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Remember the Bundy Canyon Apartments (Link To Blog about them), the concern of people getting out of that 140 unit apartment project? Larry Markham and Dick Darling, who's developing that site, agreed to put in a temporary signal. Something could technically happen here. 

Signals aren't always needed until the traffic warrants it. There's a certain level —that's were Dan [York] would know better than me— that 'ok now we need a signal because traffic is too high'.
Does Wildomar need other types of home options besides the standard single family homes?

[With] our housing element, we're mandated by the state to provide housing for all segments of our community. From very low income to the rich, and everything in between. Condominiums generally are not as expensive as single family homes, because they're smaller usually. [...] It provides a better chance for people to enter the housing market.
What demographic is the developer thinking will purchase the condos? What will be the listing price be?

[Bill Lo] said anywhere from $300,000 to $350,000, but you should get a hold of Bill for those specifics. Like I said, typically he's probably looking for entry level folks, first time home buyers possibly. It could be people that want to downsize from a 3,000-4,000 square foot house, and all they want is a condo where they don't have to maintain any yards.

I'd like to thank Matt Bassi for his time and patience with my questions and conversation. I hope this has helped some people that have concerns over this topic.

Next blog dealing with the Camelia Townhouse Project will be about the those that are against it, which includes me at this point.
Link to blog discussing the opposition
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Fear can be a force for good or evil. It can keep us from harm or it can be a malignancy that feeds on darkness and ignorance.

– E.G Marshall, CBSRMT 1974

Wildomar Rap reminds you that fear of the facts, especially when they go against your preconceived notions, is a pitch black cancer that eats away your reasoning skills and halts your ability to grasp logic.


  1. The misinformation and obvious self serving bias from those spouting off against the project make me inclined to favor it if only because of their behavior. They alternate between using conflicting arguments (example-its not affordable housing but it will bring in too many short term people who will be uncaring of our community); ridiculous attacks on those arguing in favor of following the general plan and property rights; innuendos; hypocrisy (its okay if they meet privately with city officials but go into a tizzy if others do the same); and general boorish behavior. I have two main concerns regarding this project, neither of which are tied to the thoughts of some people who never cared two cents about wildomar (or the development in their city of Murrieta) or those who gripe over every project. I drive from Temecula daily often using jefferson to nutmeg to washington to palomar. I would love for Jefferson to go all the way through. Although i have heard that cutting through grizzly ridge is pretty good too. I may start using that...

    1. I missed a lot of the whining at social media outlets about this (I've even bailed out of Nextdoor, but heard that "Kenneth" was holding court over there over parts of this blog — LOL).

      Your comment is bang on, and I know my concerns have shifted to only one issue here, the consistency in the numbers of lanes on Palomar from Jefferson to Clinton Keith.

      As for using Grizzly Ridge as a pass through, I've done it a couple of times since this issue came up and I'll tell you, it's a nice drive with some interesting views, you avoid the light at Nutmeg and Washington and you also avoid a periodic speed trap that caught Grace in it a year ago. Seems like a win-win-win to me.

      When this topic gets to the city council, it would be nice to have a well informed Wildomartini like you there... if for no other purpose than to help counterbalance the influx of knuckle dragging Wildoslavians. LOL

    2. I might have to go just to meet some of those "brave nimby souls " who keep making accusations and threats against our planning commissioners and city council members for daring to want to follow the general plan. Oh and to meet the same "brave souls" and correct them on the spelling of my name. I hear lots of childish behavior going on at that nextdoor ap. I guess people will believe anything if it fits their bias, no need to fact check or be logical.

    3. Talking about spreading rumors, last week one of the key protagonists from Murrieta was spreading false info about the eventual widening of Palomar on the WR facebook page. He was telling homeowners in the Stonehurst development that, according the "Ken", there is a 100 feet easement and that when the road gets widened it would most likely come out of their property.

      "I think Ken mentioned that if and when Palomar gets widened in front of Stonehurst, there was a 100' easement..I'd expect a large portion, if not all of it will come out of your properties road frontage. Maybe Ken could expand on that."

      In my view, that either takes very dumb people to spread such things, or very dishonest. I talked to a key person on the city staff about the claim, and was told that such a thing was a flat out lie.

      Yet, the people were still looking to "Ken" for clarification instead the people that would actually have the facts.


Let's hear what you have to say... for other inquiries try the email listed under "view my complete profile" but if you want to discuss a blog topic, I'll only do it in this comment section, not by email.

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