Murrieta continues to develop future plan for adding thousands of homes and jobs to the area

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Murrieta Special City Council Meeting-screenshot.jpg – An existing map of Area 4 in the general plan is under further discussion at the special Murrieta City Council meeting Tuesday, June 16, in Murrieta. Valley News/Courtesy photo

An updated general plan presented at the special Murrieta City Council meeting Tuesday, June 16, could potentially bring thousands of homes and jobs to families in the area. 

Senior planner Carl Stiehl and Brian F. Mooney, fellow of American Institute of Certified Planners, presented a general plan for the council’s consideration. 

The general plan and general plan environmental impact report were last updated in July 2011, as reported by presenting staff. This focused update included land use changes in certain areas with zoning changes, updates to specific general plan elements, a supplemental and final EIR, an updated Climate Action Plan and implementation of vehicle miles traveled. 

The updates address new state legislation since 2011, economic development opportunities for the city, project streamlining and improving the overall quality of life for residents, as reported by staff.

The Base Project (also known as the draft project)

There are six planning areas where there are land use changes as part of the project. Areas 1, 2 and 3 are in the southern portion of the city, and Areas 4, 5 and 6 are located in the northern and eastern portions of the city.

Area 1

This area is located south of I-15 between Madison Avenue, Monroe Avenue, Guava Street and Elm Street. This area currently has the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, two churches and various residences. There is also a hotel currently in process in this area.

Proposed land use map for Area 1

A proposed land use map for area one includes a change to innovation, which works well, according to staff, in close proximity to the existing business park, commercial and just south of the transit-oriented development area to the north. 

Area 2

For Area 2, the existing land use map is located on the east side of I-15 south of the freeway split to the city border of Temecula along Jackson Avenue. The existing land use designations include small areas of single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, as well as a large area of Office Research Park with office zoning, which is a more limited zone. 

This area covers The Springs Healthcare Center, Temecula Valley RV and the Murrieta Palms Mobile Home Park. 

Proposed land use map for Area 2

The majority here would change to innovation, according to staff, with open space along the city owned parcels and the Warm Springs Creek, with multi-family residential for the mobile home park and commercial for the one parcel down at the border of the city of Temecula.

Area 3

Area 3 is located along Murrieta Hot Springs Road, and this site is developed with a strip commercial center and buildings that include a bank, restaurants, stores and offices. 

Proposed land use map for Area 3

This is a cleanup item to change to commercial and match the way this area has developed over time. 

Area 4

This area is a large area in the northern part of the city along Whitewood Road and Clinton Keith Road. The area is developed with some industrial and storage-type uses, rural residential and large lot land use designated areas. The majority of this area, other than what’s near the freeway is located within the Eastern Municipal Water District. The area that has ORP has an encompassed health facility and grading for future medical office development that’s currently in process along the I-215.

Proposed land use map for Area 4

This area would significantly remove the existing ORP from the area, an innovation area south of Baxter Road on both sides of Whitewood Road, with adjacent workforce housing, both multi-family housing and single-family located in close proximity. It would also change the RCA owned parcels in the southern area to open space. 

There are also two alternatives in the project that provide options for how the land use in this area can be changed. 

Area 5

This section is a smaller area than the adjacent area four across the I-215. This area is located north of Linnel Lane and along McElwain Road, just north of the existing Target. It’s currently completely designated ORP, it contains a few existing residences with very steep terrain to the west and north. A hotel was also recently approved in Area 5. 

Proposed land use map for Area 5

This area would remove the ORP, replace it with innovation along the freeway, also add multi-family residential for worker housing at the intersection of Linnel Lane and McElwain Road and single-family residential at the parcels with the steepest terrain to the north and west. 

Area 6

Located within the Murrieta Springs Specific Plan in the eastern part of the city, this section is east of the Los Alamos area. The parcels are undeveloped land that have been acquired by RCA for conservation. Locations are adjacent to the existing open space in the Murrieta Springs Plan. 

Proposed land use map for Area 6

This section is a cleanup to the area to make all the parcels open space. This helps with conservation and open space goals, including those in the general plan, and an addition matching RCA’s intended use for the properties. A subsequent amendment to clean up the Murrieta Springs Specific Plan is necessary and will be completed separately, according to staff. 

Alternatives to the project

Alternatives to the project are considered in the draft EIR. In consideration of alternatives as part of this process provides options to adopt a project that achieves the overall goals. 

The city may choose to adopt the draft project as presented, or an alternative or parts of alternatives, given that they’ve been fully analyzed. 

The alternatives primarily look at different potential considerations of land use designations in two areas.

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 offers a different arrangement of land uses in Area 4. It would further reduce the amount of proposed innovation in area four from the draft plan, with more multi-family residential instead. 

It is primarily seen in the northern part of the area where the parcels that were proposed for innovation east of Whitewood Road and south of Baxter Road, except for the innovation area around the recently developed encompassed health facility along Whitewood Road.

The parcel at the southeast corner of Clinton Keith Road and Whitewood Road in this alternative also changes from single-family to multi-family. According to staff, this creates more of a corridor running north to south of multi-family along the east side of Whitewood Road, but still provides a large innovation area. 

Staff reported that they received a number of comments during public review in support of this alternative. The planning commission’s recommendation was to adopt this alternative based on their deliberations and the public comment. 

Alternative 3

There are different arrangements for land uses in Area 2 and Area 4. Alternative 3 replaces the proposed innovation in Area 2 with commercial. In Area 4, this alternative replaces innovation southwest of Baxter Road and west of Whitewood Road with multi-family, creating more of an L-shaped, smaller innovation area. 

This alternative also adds two small areas of commercial at the northeast and southeast corner of Clinton Keith Road and Whitewood Road. Comments were also received in support of the alternative from public review. 

The council can choose between the draft land use map or these alternatives. Alternatives 2 and 3 then are changes to the base project.

The project also includes a water study. It also included public workshops and public review. Twenty-six comments were received during the time period for public review, in which many supported Alternative 2. 

Some comments from staff came with concern about losing innovation to make room for more housing.

Before a motion was made, Mayor Gene Wunderlich gave one final comment. 

“I very much want to thank the city for an excellent job of updating this and providing a very comprehensive plan,” Wunderlich said. “The concept of innovation districts didn’t even really exist the last time we did a general plan update, so this is all new, it’s spreading like wildfire across the country because it is so flexible and allows so many different uses. 

“The focus really is very friendly, integrated communities that incorporate a mix of housing and the office design and these and so forth with sufficient landscaping and hopefully an attraction for what we focus on here as a city, new business startups, business incubators as well as some well-known anchors in some of these tenant buildings,” Wunderlich said. 

A motion was made to adopt the recommendation by staff for the resolutions that were outlined in their report, for the first reading of the ordinance as outlined in staff recommendation, and that council adopts the map that is Alternative 2 with the addition of the multi-family in the corner at Baxter Road and Whitewood Road.

The motion made by Councilmember Kelly Seyarto included the innovation in Area 2, with concern for the direction that commercial property is going in. 

“The innovation area is able to capture a lot of what would normally be, maybe commercial, retail,” Seyarto said. “I think it provides the flexibility we needed for that particular parcel. There’s so much competition and dwindling demand for commercial, and I want to make sure that, at least in the next few years because I look forward to seeing how this plays out for our community, so for that area I’m still fine with the innovation.” 

The motion passed unanimously. 

To see the maps of each area, learn more about the Innovation Land Use, updates in state legislation affecting the general plan proposed project, or the agenda items of the June 16 meeting, visit http://onbase.murrietaca.gov/onbaseagendaonline and click on the 2 p.m. ‘City Council Special Meeting’ link for June 16.

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.