Three hotels approved for Oceanside-Carlsbad border near lagoon

An architectural rendering of the entrance to The Inns at Buena Vista Creek, on the border of Oceanside and Carlsbad.
An architectural rendering of the entrance to The Inns at Buena Vista Creek, on the border of Oceanside and Carlsbad.
(Courtesy city of Oceanside)

Hilton project includes 426 rooms, bridge, convention center


Oceanside has approved plans in the works for more than 10 years to build three Hilton-brand hotels up to six stories tall with a total of 426 rooms along the Buena Vista Creek and lagoon near the city’s border with Carlsbad.

Construction is still probably two years away, city officials said, but when complete the project will include a four-story parking structure, restaurants, banquet and meeting rooms, pools, spas and other amenities. The main entrance will be from Jefferson Avenue, just south of state Route 78, with secondary access from a bridge to be built across the creek connecting the hotels to the Ring Road at the Shoppes at Carlsbad mall.

The Oceanside Planning Commission voted 5-1 last week to approve the project, with one member absent and Commissioner Kyle Krahel opposed.

Krahel said he could not support the plan because it will create excessive greenhouse gas emissions, which have been shown to harm the environment and contribute to climate change. However, the city planning staff recommended approval, noting that the developer made “a good faith effort” to reduce greenhouse gases to the extent feasible “for a financially viable project.”

Other commissioners said that the issue of greenhouse gasses was offset by the jobs, tax revenue and other economic and environmental benefits that the hotels will bring.

“I see a lot of good in this project,” said Commissioner Curtis Busk, who said greenhouse gasses probably will be reduced as people shift to electricity-based transportation systems in the future.

“The only drawback is that six-story building,” he said, because it will be easily seen from the nearby freeway. “It is an awfully big footprint and ... it is going to jar for a while until we get used to it.”

Commissioner Louise Balma commended the developer for the 10 years of work and the changes made to resolve issues raised at meetings with residents, the city and other agencies. She said she especially liked the location near the freeway and the bus transit center in the shopping mall parking lot.

“What we need right now is a way for our city to make revenue,” Balma said. “We are coming out of a COVID crisis.”

The Buena Vista Audubon Society, the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation, the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians and other local groups participated in the effort to minimize the environmental effects of the project.

Preserve Calavera founder Diane Nygaard, an Oceanside resident, said in a letter read at Monday’s commission meeting that the developer should do more to reduce greenhouse gasses.

The vacant, 12.5-acre site is located mostly in Oceanside, with all three hotels in that city, but about one-quarter of the property is in Carlsbad including the creek, some open space and the proposed bridge to the shopping mall. The site is also partially in the coastal zone, with two of the three hotels in the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission.

Because of the parts of the property in Carlsbad, the Carlsbad City Council will be asked, probably later this year, to approve a habitat management plan, zoning change and general plan amendment for those areas.

Jenna Development of Signal Hill, near Long Beach, has owned the property since 2007.

Located about 450 feet east of the Buena Vista Lagoon, the site will include a 100-foot “buffer” between the creek and the buildings. The buffer zone will be landscaped with native species of trees, shrubs and ground cover, and will include a pedestrian walkway.

The tallest of the three hotels will be a six-story Embassy Suites with 179 rooms on the western side of the lot. The center hotel will be a five-story Hampton Inn with 135 rooms, and the third, on the eastern side, will be a four-story Homewood Suites with 112 rooms.

The site is mostly flat at an elevation of 8 to 23 feet above sea level, previously graded and includes fill dredged from the nearby lagoon.

The property was once part of the master planned shopping center formerly known as Plaza Camino Real, now called The Shoppes at Carlsbad, which opened in 1969.