The Cambrian

Cambria senior living project application withdrawn

The latest chapter in the saga of a 1.3-acre parcel of multifamily-zoned land on Cambria’s Green Street and Ardath Drive appears to have reached an end: The permit application for the Kingston Bay Senior Living project has been officially withdrawn. 

The project was to have provided housing for seniors who need some level of supervision and assistance.

Principal partner Jeffrey King of Fresno withdrew the application Oct. 8, two days before an appeal of the project’s county permit was to have come before the California Coastal Commission. 

“It is with great regret” that King closed the permit process, he said in a letter sent to the county, which had jurisdiction over the project. “We have found ourselves in the unenviable position” of facing an appeal and staff report that recommended denial.  

According to that report, commission staff had “substantial issue” with some aspects of the project, most notably water supply and biological concerns about putting a 28,266-square-foot building with 33 rooms and a 20-space parking lot on sloped, forested land in a residential area.

King’s action has nullified the current permit. He would need to submit a new application to restart the process, something he’s indicated he’s going to do after resolving some water-supply issues with the Cambria Community Services District and the Coastal Commission. 

He wrote: “I hope to be resubmitting our revised project to the county with all due speed. We continue to remain committed to one day serving the escalating need for quality assisted living and memory-care services for residents currently aging in place within the Cambria area.”

King indicated that time constraints factored into the partnership’s decision to withdraw, because of the “complexity of the ongoing dialogue” with the two agencies. 

The partnership bought the property in June 2012. The land has a CSD intent-to-serve letter for 11.78 equivalent dwelling units worth of water. 

Susan Craig, the commission’s district manager, said Tuesday, Oct. 14, that staff recommended denial because of the “critical water situation in Cambria.” Kingston Bay is “a relatively large project with up to 41 beds and a fairly large water requirement. And there’s no water.” 

The applicant had asked for approval of the permit under the condition that he couldn’t build until the water-supply situation for new Cambria projects was resolved. 

Craig said the CSD’s “emergency well project is supposed to be only for existing customers during drought emergencies. We couldn’t support the (requested) condition when it could be years and years in the future before this project could be built.”

She said, “rather than have a denial on the record, they withdrew,” but “we’re willing to meet with them in the future to talk about the project. Now, it probably wouldn’t be fruitful.” Going forward, “we’ll want to see what the alternatives are.”

Cambria’s severely limited water supply and some biological issues were the project’s death knell, at least for now, King said. 

The commission called the latter “sensitive habitat policies,” involving the removal of 10 Monterey pine trees, protected as a sensitive resource. Staff also was concerned that, according to the report, “there is evidence that at least a portion of the site is environmentally sensitive habitat area,” which means the project should have been evaluated under the county Local Coastal Program’s policies and standards for such areas.

The proposal drew mixed, frequently fervent, reactions from the Cambria community. Some agreed with King, saying the town desperately needs that kind of accommodation for aging residents. 

Others disagreed. The opponents’ appeal, filed in late June 2013, listed concerns about traffic, parking, public safety (especially for pedestrians), landscaping, truck-delivery routes and putting such a large development in a residential neighborhood, on a corner visible from Highway 1.

Claudia Harmon Worthen, who filed the appeal along with Friends of the NCAC (North Coast Advisory Council), said of the withdrawal that “we are so pleased with the Coastal Commission staff's assiduously researched determination” that would have brought the Kingston Bay project to the Commission for a full hearing.