A plan to build a strip mall on a piece of land in Lakeside zoned for affordable housing has struck a divide between developers and nearby business owners.
The project calls for the Lake Jennings Marketplace to be built on a vacant lot off Olde Highway 80 and Pecan Park Lane near the Lake Jennings Park Road and Interstate 8 ramps, land zoned under the San Diego County General Plan for family housing.
The project calls for a 9.5-acre mall with a grocery store, bank, gas station and other shops in lieu of 160 moderately-priced housing units.
Joe Burnetto, owner of Marechiaro's Italian Restaurant across the street from the project site, said a shopping center might bring more customers to his restaurant's door, but he's certain that it will cause a traffic mess on the streets surrounding it.
And with a shopping center one exit away full of vacancies, he's wondering why developers have targeted this portion of land.
"They're not going to build a shopping center," Burnetto said. "They're going to get it rezoned and sell off and get their money. They're never going to follow through with that whole project."
Burnetto is also concerned about plans for a traffic light and a roundabout being installed, and says a raised median on Olde Highway 80 will force his delivery trucks to have to make inconvenient U-turns.
"We've been around 62 years," Burnetto added. "We're established in this community, so it's not about competition. It's just not fair that we're zoned commercial and they're not and they're going to impact all of our businesses."
Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, has joined in on the opposition, too, saying the development would bring more greenhouse gases and push other developments closer to the forest's land.
Burnetto and Shu spoke to the media Monday ahead of the County Board of Supervisor's Wednesday meeting where they will vote on a General Plan amendment to change the zoning of the land.
Keith Gregory, president of South Coast Development, LLC, the company that owns the land, said the site isn't good for a residential project but checks off all the boxes of a perfect commercial development site.
The fact that it's near a freeway onramp and at the intersection of two busy streets means that the mall would be convenient for many drivers passing by, including the residents of the five communities around Lake Jennings who Gregory said have to travel 5 miles to their nearest grocery store.
Gregory points to the noise from the nearby freeway and rental demand in the area as reasons a residential project wouldn't work.
He said it's harder to design a residential structure in the area given the freeway noise because laws require a lesser amount of noise compared to commercial developments.
Gregory said Soutch Coast Developments, LLC, tried to develop the land as a residential area but no one was interested.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob was not able to comment on the project prior to Wednesday's meeting, an official from her office said.