Oceanside approves artificial surf lagoon complex for former drive-in movie property

Ocean Kamp, an adventure-themed hotel and community built around a man-made surf lagoon, received unanimous approval from the Oceanside Planning Commission on Monday for construction in the San River Valley. Louis Rey.

The project brings a new era to the 92-acre site of a former drive-in movie theater and swap meet just off State Route 76 and Mission Avenue at Foussat Road.

Opponents said the resort would waste water and increase traffic congestion, while supporters said it would be “a jewel” in Oceanside’s crown, bolstering the town’s reputation as a surfing destination and bringing in millions of dollars a year in tax revenue.

Plans include a four-story hotel with 232 rooms, eight “villa” buildings with a total of 18 rooms, 16 “casitas” with a total of 20 rooms, and a park-like cluster of permanently parked Airstream trailers that make up 30 rooms.

All guest accommodation will be centered on a 3.5 acre surf lagoon which will generate waves of varying sizes. When the wave machine is turned off, the lagoon will be available for swimming, stand up paddle and other water activities.

Plans also call for 11 separate commercial, retail and office buildings, an 18,000 square foot conference building and up to 700 housing units divided into for-sale condominium and rental apartment areas. Among other amenities, there are approximately 1.5 miles of trails for walking, running, and biking.

“The center of gravity of the whole development is the wave lagoon,” said Jon Corn, attorney and project partner.

The lagoon will have constant waves and warm water all year round, unlike the ocean, he said. As a result, the station will attract people from across the country and around the world.

The developer expects $81 million in tax revenue for the city from the project in its first 10 years, Corn said.

About 5.2 million gallons of water will be needed to fill the wave lagoon and about 4 million gallons will be lost to evaporation each year, he said. An 18-hole golf course in California uses about 90 million gallons per year, according to the California Alliance for Golf.

The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, North County Economic Development Council, Boys and Girls Clubs of Oceanside, San Diego County Bike Coalition and other local groups have endorsed the project.

“This is a unique development,” said Erik Bruvold, chief executive of the San Diego North Economic Development Council. “It has the opportunity to create a real sense of place and destination in Oceanside.”

Other speakers had harsh words for the project.

Diane Nygaard, president of local nonprofit Preserve Calavera, said she would rather watch real waves on the ocean than a “giant flush” on a man-made inland lagoon.

Shame on the developer for only providing half of the city’s required 10% affordable housing on the site, she said. The project will pay replacement costs to the city to build the remaining 5% elsewhere.

The resort offers “expensive paid recreation that uses water during a drought,” she said, and it will divert business from other area hotels that have recently opened or are planned, such as the Inns at Buena Vista Creek along State Route 78 and two hotels approved for the city’s El Corazon property.

“We urge you to just say no,” Nygaard said.

Other speakers said the resort’s location is too close to Oceanside Airport, which has seen two fatal crashes so far this year.

About half of the speakers on Monday were in unions that wanted jobs with the project. Joiners’ union members and their families all praised him, saying the developer had promised to employ them. Pipe fitters, steel workers and other unions have opposed the project, asking the commission to withhold approval until their groups are offered a deal.

Several people have suggested that a new comprehensive environmental impact report be written.

An environmental impact report was approved by the city in 2008 for a previous development on the site called Le Pavillon. This project would have been Oceanside’s largest shopping center with several big-box anchor tenants, but it lost momentum and was never built.

The city has approved an additional report for Ocean Kamp, based on the report completed for the previous project.

A recent traffic study showed that the station will generate 19,000 vehicle trips per day, a significant drop from the Pavilion’s expected 32,000 daily trips.

Leveling began in 2019 at the site, which sits along the San Luis Rey River three miles east of the ocean. Contractors trucked in 450,000 cubic yards of fill material to raise the property above the floodplain.

The site was home to the Valley Drive-In four-screen theater for nearly 50 years. The drive-in closed in 1999 and the screens were demolished in 2016. A weekend swap meet held for many years continued there until it closed in 2019.

Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners purchased the property in 2018 and developed the Ocean Kamp plan based on the artificial wave concept. Zephyr announced in November 2020 that it had sold the project to former partner N4FL Worldwide, also known as N4FL Development, which has offices in Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe.

The planning commissioners said most of the concerns raised on Monday have already been resolved or will be as the project progresses.

“This is not a public project, so there are no minimum wage or union work requirements,” Commissioner Tom Morrissey said. “It’s not our sphere of influence. We’re not going. »

He called it “The biggest project I’ve seen here in a long time,” adding, “It fits right in with our Oceanside history.”

Commissioner Kevin Dodds urged the developer to hire local workers and said, “There’s a plethora of talent here in Oceanside.”

“It’s exciting to see such a unique project on land that has been empty for so long,” said curator Louise Balma. “I can not wait.”

The commission voted 6-0, in the absence of Commissioner Jeff Symons, to certify the supplemental environmental impact report and to approve a draft map and conditional use permit for the project.

The commission’s approval is final, unless appealed to the Oceanside City Council.

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