Two developments signal dynamic change in North County residential living, bringing with what both projects’ principals believe will be community and economic benefits.
One, MBK Rental Living’s Ocean Air Apartment Homes at Torrey Hills, is expected to be completed in late October for initial occupancies. The other, Accretive Investments Inc.’s Lilac Hills Ranch, is already 10 years in the planning and may not be fully built out for another 10.
These developments, one east of Interstate 5 and the other just east of Interstate 15, are vastly different in size and function, but each has a bold eye on the future.
Ocean Air, the last piece of the Torrey Hills Master Plan that was initiated more than 20 years ago, will include 100 townhouses and flats for rent on 4.6 acres just south of Carmel Valley. The community is proximate to the Del Mar Union and San Dieguito Union school districts, and a cool breeze away from attractions such as the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Torrey Pines State Beach.
The Mediterranean-inspired residences will range from one to three bedrooms and 1,067 to 1,630 square feet in size.
“I think it’s an opportunity for people who are looking to rent to be in a neighborhood that otherwise might only be available if they were for sale, and the prices might be prohibitive,” said Rick Fletcher, vice president of sales and marketing for MBK Rental Living. “You can get into what feels like an ownership situation on a rental basis.
“We think there are a lot more people who are renting by choice than there ever has been. We don’t envision this as being a millennial-driven community. We think we’ll get local residents, perhaps transition residents who are going from an ownership position. People will be driven to this community who love the school district.”
Fletcher and Josh Barnett, MBK’s director of apartment operations, agree that Ocean Air will provide privacy and exclusivity in an upscale rental community.
“A lot of (rental) homes are two-bedroom flats in communities of 350 units,” said Barnett. “This is a quiet community and has more of an ownership atmosphere.”
Added Fletcher: “There are just 100 residents. They’re going to like that feeling of privacy.”
The rental versus sales strategy may not be as counterintuitive as it seems for San Diego County, they said.
“Big residential builders are looking at apartments as a way to kind of hedge the cyclical risks that are inherent in a sales business, the up and down peaks and troughs,” said Fletcher.
Ocean Air, said Barnett, is the first new apartment community in the Torrey Hills area in some 10 years. “We’re going to be there for those who are renting by choice and who are looking for an option in a specific market to have a location with exclusivity.”
Bridge to the future
That curved bridge suspended over Interstate 15 near Old Highway 395 cutoff is called a catenary. It’s also the logo of the nearly billion-dollar Lilac Hills Ranch, a planned 608-acre community that will bring together a variety of residential living options, commercial businesses and environmentally respected open land/park space.
The 1,746 units will range from apartments to townhouses and condominiums to a 200-bed independent and assisted-living facility.
Some 90,000 square feet of commercial space will include a mixed-use town center with shopping and restaurants. Jon D. Rilling, a Lilac Hills principal and president of Accretive Investments Inc., envisions “a community that combines a traditional small-town feel with 21st century green technology and sustainable design.”
Rilling also is planning for a “multigenerational community. We have learned through surveys that there is a real problem of housing variety within the community that forces parents, children and grandparents to all live apart in different areas — disconnected and only accessible by a long commute. Lilac Hills Ranch provides families the opportunity to stay together within one community, all within walking distance.”
Accretive CEO R. Randy Goodson said, “People want to be able to walk down the street to visit their grandparents.”
The Lilac Hills Ranch development will occupy what used to be 32 declining farms, just north of the Lawrence Welk Resort area. Though the avocado growers of the past are gone, the accent is still on green.
“We designed Lilac Hills Ranch as a cutting-edge green community,” Rilling said, “offering the latest in green technology and building practices. Residential and commercial design will require preplumbing for solar and recycled water and include rainwater harvesting, onsite composting and sustainable housing components such as maximum insulation and high-efficiency water and electric devices.”
Rilling and Goodson have been hearing public comments for a decade, much of it about concerns of big growth and traffic, and what Goodson calls “fear of change, and we’re a change agent.”
But they say Lilac Hills Ranch will reduce projected traffic based on existing growth patterns, that it is designed to be sensitive to the environment and take advantage of natural resources, and that it will generate jobs — lots of them.
Goodson predicts the creation of 1,500 temporary jobs through the course of the project and up to 700 new permanent jobs established.
Rilling pointed out, too, that Lilac Hills’ location “will help the San Diego region, providing housing for its employees and reducing the necessity for so many employees to live in Temecula. This will help San Diego’s economy by keeping employees’ income circulating locally.”
The principals are preparing responses to every one of the public comments that have been submitted and are preparing their second environmental impact report. The next step will be to go to the planning commission and then the county Board of Supervisors for approval “within the next year,” Goodson said.
The hope is to break ground within a year after that.
“This is a business of passion,” Goodson said.
But, at the same time, “We approach it with the seriousness of being fortunate enough to be creating a community for thousands of people that will be here for a long time.”
-Coddon is a San Diego-based freelance writer.