Senior Living Project Approved, Not Everyone Happy

The Planning Commission approved a project headed by Flintridge Partners, developers of a 225-room residence to begin in early 2013. Some residents are not happy and fear noise, traffic.

Thirty-one year resident, Rosie Garcia, says she has spent most of her time raising a family, however, she did find a few moments to attend the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday to hear about a new senior living development.

Up for talks was the 225-unit retirement and assisted living community, Crestavilla, to be constructed at Niguel Road and Crown Valley Parkway, on the same property as the oldest church in Laguna Niguel, Shepherd of the Hills. 

The Commission unanimously approved the project to be developed by Flintridge Partners based in Irvine. The new building will have between two and four stories, and about 211,000 square feet. 

Located at 30111 Niguel Road, it will offer luxury amenities including restaurants, a spa and theaters, a spiritual resource center, allowing Shepherd of the Hills Church, also a partner in the project, to continue its ministry at the location. Of the 11.5 acre lot, 7.2 acres will remain hillside open space, aid he developer.

Partner Marlon Fenton of Flintridge, said the $61 million development is "much needed in Laguna Niguel."

"We decided on Laguna Niguel because it is an area that definitely needs this type of facility for seniors," Fenton said. "For the last two months, we have conducted community outreach in Laguna Niguel and have received tremendous support-- about 1,000 people are in support of the project. One of our partners has been a resident for 26 years and we want to make this project succesful for everyone."

Prior to the meeting, the developer held a dinner/event for about 150 supporters. They were dropped off at City Hall via chartered bus to attend the Planning Commission meeting, Fenton said.

"We did it mostly out of convenience for the people because we didn't want to fill up the parking lot at City Hall," he said. "Plus, 150 is a lot of people."

Garcia said she felt "the whole thing was staged."

She and other residents who reside near the project have said they are concerned about the potential noise and traffic.

Dan Fox, community development director said in response to residents' concerns about the geological impacts of excavating at the foot of the hill to build a two-story subterranean parking garage, the commission has required developers to monitor any potential land movement on a weekly basis. Fenton said construction would not put hillside homes at risk.

Fox said additionally, the Commission limited commercial deliveries to between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. He also said to allow for safe left turns out of the development, a traffic signal will be installed at its entrance on Niguel Road, southeast of Crown Valley Parkway.

"I felt very embarrassed that our city was targeted by this big developer  by bringing a busload to take up almost all of the seats in the Council chambers," Garcia said.

She further said she was worried about potential traffic in the area.

"Even though there should not be heavy traffic in and out of this place, there still would be some elderly people turning in and out, causing traffic to back up onto Crown Valley Parkway, along with having a red light right there - that could really make traffic difficult," she said.

Garcia said she believes a smaller version might fit better in the city.

"The Planning Commission ultimately approved the project recognizing that this will be a quality development project that is probably one of the least traffic intensive developments that could be proposed for the site," Fox said. "The current commercial zoning could accommodate a wide variety of retail, restaurant, auto service and offices uses. The project does not propose to cut into the open space slope and construct large retaining walls as past approval have proposed, which was a previous concern from the surrounding residents."

Fenton said the project could be completed by 2014. 

Shirley November 29, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Super rotten idea. 99% of the people that start up Niguel Rd don't know how to put their foot in their accelerator to get up the hill, you can always count on a car crawl up Niguel Rd. And now an assisted living facility will be built, we can only see the traffic get worse for the fact that these people only drive 10 mph on a stright flat road & on a hill thats almost on a curve, there will be accidents eveyday.
Gary Breithaupt November 29, 2012 at 06:19 PM
True, If I don't give it some gas I'll have someone right on my ass going up that hill. I have 24 years experience driving up it and believe I have it mastered. New and older residents would for sure cause traffic problems.
rob November 29, 2012 at 06:34 PM
C'mon, we will all be seniors at some point unless the San Onofre plant doesn't kill us before. Traffic "ain't" good anywhere and we all know it's getting worse; however, housing needs to be provided and this project views as quite upscale. It could have been a HUD project, so count your lucky BMW's.
Kathi November 29, 2012 at 08:28 PM
"the commission has required developers to monitor any potential land movement on a weekly basis." So they obviously have a concern about land movement to require monitoring it. What plans do they have if they note land movement? Monitoring doesn't prevent land movement, just I guess would give an early heads up if its happening. & of course we have already seen in S OC when it rains a lot, movement can happen rapidly. Seems to me that the idea of a Sr place like this is a good one, but, I agree w the other person about the location. Years ago I worked at that site & getting in & out onto Niguel Rd was a bit tricky. & putting a signal so close to Crown Valley is likely to mess up traffic flow unless it is coordinated.
Gary Breithaupt November 29, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I hear you Rob I'm already a senior. I see you noticed the BMW and the Porsche on the rendering.
Suzanne Kraus Densley November 30, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Niguel/Crown Valley corner already has issues! Land movement closed the condo complex above the shopping center years ago. There's a constant sewage smell. The allowable u-turn at the bottom of Niguel is too tight for most larger SUVs. Niguel Road is so steep at the point of entrance to the church. It a blind left for anyone leaving that parking lot and a very steep right hand climb from that point. A light at that point would provide a false sense of safety. Especially for any pedestrians!!! Very short sighted. I agree with Kathi... "Monitor land movement"... ya, watch it slide down the hill into the gas station. There are too many issues with this location.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Rob: And Mercedes!
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 01:35 AM
The project seems to have many supporters as well as naysayers ... it is going through though.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Shirley: Maybe if they see a UFO flying overhead they will accelerate.
Rosie Garcia November 30, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Debbie - does this go to the council? I haven't had the chance to go talk to someone at City Hall, but plan to early next week.
D & V November 30, 2012 at 03:18 AM
There will always be those naysayers when something new comes into their neighborhood. With more and more people living longer, this is much needed. You can always find fault with any location. This is as good a use as any for this property and chances are, we all know someone who's going to benefit from this new senior living facility. Just think, you could have one of your parents, a close friend or relative...or maybe even yourself needing this facility. Then wouldn't you be glad it was nearby?
Jeanette A. Fratto November 30, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Rob, I think you said it best, although I respect the differing opinions of others. Most, if not all, of the seniors living in this complex will not be driving cars. I'd worry more about the impatient younger folks who zoom up Niguel, testing the pick-up capacity of their sports car or truck. This looks like a nice, upscale facility, and will generate less traffic than a restaurant or some other entertainment venue. If we can tolerate the monstrous Kaleidoscope center on Crown Valley and the freeway, we can certainly handle a senior residence farther down.
Shirley November 30, 2012 at 04:16 AM
I forgot about the land movement at the sleazy apartments. Is that going to be ignored & therefore be a sight for sore eyes for the next 20 ywars while the senior housing goes in on a slippery slope? That just the beginning...won't get into the horrible driving again. Am so happy Gary knows exactly what I'm talking about & truthfully for the little I use that part of Niguel Rd I would like to know your secret of mastering. Debbie, I'm going to biatch during the entire project.
R. Black November 30, 2012 at 04:43 AM
The project has been well thought out and thoroughly scrutinized by the Planning Commission. I would certainly rather see a project like this at this commericially zoned site rather than another strip mall with fast food restaurants, nail and tanning salons and a drycleaner.
Bill Clements November 30, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Against although there is a need for facility's like these. They prey on elderly and their family's . Often they charge outrageous fees. I'm against
Woody November 30, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Kathi, The commission required the monitors to appease the Geo concern expressed at the meeting by the neighbors, not because they believe that the hill will move. Perhaps you left before the end of the meeting, because your question was asked of the Geo engineer, and answered. The answer is that you fill in the hole or support the slope to stop the movement. People in general, do not understand that there are basically two types of Geo issues that we have in the area, deep and shallow. The deep ones are the ones that should concern you, underlaying landslides, fractures, poor compaction, improper benching etc.. To discover these, they have done many borings, and would have found them. The shallow issues, which are prevalent in the area are surficial slope failures, and expansive soil, neither of which are concerns for this project. (to be continued)
Woody November 30, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Continued from above... I have owned a home and have looked at homes in Pacesetter 1 and 2, and have many geo-reports for the soils in the tracts. The only issues that I remember are the two shallow ones, and the damage from these issues are localized, not an entire hillside. Expansive soil is the biggest issue for most home owners in that the elevation of the home can be raised and lowered by as much as 3/4 of an inch seasonally due to the changing of the soil moisture content. The home would rise when the soil is wet, and contract when dry. When this occurs differently around different parts of the home, you get the issue of differential settlement. Surfical slope failures occur in soil that is 3-4 feet deep on slopes that are too steep, ie, 1.5 to 1, and is caused by a lack of cohesion in the soil makeup which is exacerbated by moisture content. There are some slopes in the project area that are 1.5 to 1, and have been since the tract was built. During the project, these slopes will be re-graded to a 2 to 1 slope thereby mitigating the slope failure issue greatly for the homes directly above the project.
Sue Bock November 30, 2012 at 05:26 PM
To the naysayers - What would you recommend for that space? It is currently an eyesore. The church facilities are empty; the medical building is worn down, not to mention the dirt lot. The city has to decide the "best use." If you attended the Planning Commission meeting, whether brought over by the bus or not, you would have gained great knowledge of the detail & attention that the developers & city personnel charged with project review have taken to ensure that this will be a geotechnically safe project & to ensure the proper movement of traffic by providing synchronized traffic lights. Also, let's be careful about being NIMBY's (For those of you not familiar with this term, it means "not in my back yard.") At one time, all of LN was undeveloped hillsides. Someone had to take the initiative & financial risk to build this beautiful community. I don't doubt that at some point, many people who lived here were NIMBY & that there were adversarial Planning Commission meetings along the way, yet somehow; everyone managed to survive & thrive. Our city is one of the shining stars in our state & our country. We have a history of electing dedicated civil servants who have provided proper planning & fiscal management to grow & maintain our beautiful, prosperous town. The current Planning Commission is composed of knowledgeable & competent people who are concerned about maintaining this city & doing their best to make the right decisions. This development is one of them.
Rosie Garcia December 01, 2012 at 06:06 PM
If asking questions and questioning the project is being a naysayer, then I wonder where our wonderful city will end up. No one has been NIMBY'ing either. It's the size of the project and the traffic signal that are in question. Also, what appears to be a lack of informing the residents nearby. I live nearby, probably drive up/down Niguel Road almost every day, read the newspapers, etc and did not hear about the project until a neighbor informed me the day of the Planning Commission hearing. I did go to the hearing and although I did not stay until the end I did not hear anything about "synchronized traffic signals" and that is one reason that I will be following up this week at City Hall. I am also curious to what benefits this project brings, other than the likely intensive use of city services (fire/paramedic, etc). It is not the kind of place my husband and I aspire to move to in a few years, but that isn't why I'm asking questions - I know some people at the Planning Commission meeting did say they would love to move into a place like this or put their parents there. Again, I am just asking questions that I did not have the opportunity to ask prior to approval of the project.
Jeanette A. Fratto December 01, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Has any project every been built anywhere where there was 100% approval? I'd much rather see a lovely senior facility than some more unsightly project that could have been suggested. I'm puzzled at Bill's comment that senior facilities "prey" on the elderly and their families. I've visited many in Orange County as a presenter regarding novels I've written, and far from preying on the elderly, they have created a nice home for the elderly, many of whom cannot take care of themselves. They're not cheap but I wouldn't call their fees outrageous for what they provide. You can always shop around and find the one that fits your pocketbook. I've been in Laguna Niguel 28 years and have seen much building. It's not the quiet place it once was, but that's progress, and it is still a beautiful city.
Leonard Kinkade December 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM
It my personal opinion that it’s a good idea, the property has laid dormant for many years and it would seem like a reasonable location. Like most vacant property in Laguna Niguel, eventually something is going to be built on it. The city already has several of these facilities off Golden Lantern at Marina Hills drive and I haven't seen a huge change in the traffic patterns at that location. Better, this type of facility than a drug rehab center or a low income housing project like those that pledge Mission Viejo at Crown Valley. It has been my understanding the traffic to these facilities, like the one at Marina Hills, normally takes place later in the morning and is normally completed before 4:00pm. Many of the residence don’t drive themselves they either take a facility provided bus or OCTA mini bus. So, I personally welcome this type of facility. Time will tell if it impacts the left turn traffic on to Niguel Rd. My guess is that it won’t and after the facility is built most people won’t realize that it is there, not unlike those at Marina Hills and Golden Lantern.
Leonard Kinkade December 02, 2012 at 08:38 PM
It would be nice though, if current residence of Laguna Niguel, who need these type of facilities, were given first priority so that they could remain in the city they chose to live in!
rob December 03, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I definitely agree w/you Leonard. As I get older chronologically (and hopefully the wiser), I can't help but notice that south orange county doesn't seem to provide much affordability to it's seniors, period! Ventura County and L.A. County surely have us beat. Greed and politics is a rampant virus that has been and will continue to exist. Perhaps with people like us, who are verbal, there will be change. I "never say never".


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