Skip to main content

Original article:

Old buildings will come down, more apartments may go up and a second traffic circle will be added along South Santa Fe Avenue in Vista in the next two years as the city tackles the second phase of its long-planned redevelopment of the blighted corridor.

The first phase of the so-called Paseo Santa Fe project opened six months ago, transforming a quarter-mile stretch of the road into a two-lane pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare with wide sidewalks, quaint street lamps and pretty landscaping, as well as a vintage-style archway sign that stretches over the remodeled avenue.

The revamped street moves past a new mixed-use affordable housing complex and a small Veteran’s Memorial Park with a bronze statue of beloved Marine reading a letter from home.

City officials said funding is in hand for the second phase of Paseo Santa Fe, which will move from Oceanview Drive south to Terrace Drive. Now in the design phase, construction work will start next summer.

When it’s done by the end of 2018, that area will mirror many of the changes done in the first phase, including burying overhead utility lines strung along aging wooden poles.

The city is also negotiating development of an affordable housing complex on property it owns on South Santa Fe south of Guajome Street. The site is a mishmash collection of businesses including a jewelry repair store and a print shop, along with several vacant storefronts.

If the affordable apartment complex comes to fruition, the project would be of a similar size and scope as Paseo Pointe, a relatively new 69-unit affordable apartment complex atop ground floor retail just down the road, Vista’s Housing and Redevelopment Director John Meyer said Monday.

Meyer did not provide detail on the proposed complex, but called it “a pretty exciting project.”

There’s also a chance that new development could spring up across the street, near Terrace Drive. Last week, the city tentatively agreed to sell a handful of parcels there for $639,000 to local developer Lev Gershman, who has already redeveloped other downtown properties.

The South Santa Fe sites Gershman is eyeing hold a mix of services including bookkeeping. Some businesses, including a barbershop, have already moved out. Gershman said Tuesday the purchase is not a done deal; he still needs to study its viability, as well as what sort of project might work there, including apartments over retail.

“We think there is long term potential, an opportunity to really turn it (downtown and environs) into the arts and cultural district the city envisions,” Gershman said. “I am hoping that property makes economic sense for us, but until we do our due diligence, we don’t know.”

He said that, while the land is only four blocks south of Vista’s downtown, at this point it’s “a no-man’s land” that lacks foot traffic. Gershman has already purchased and remodeled a building on Indiana and Broadway streets, a few blocks away, as a future restaurant site, and said he’s in talks with potential tenants.

The second traffic circle along South Santa Fe would be at Guajome. The city is still trying to nibble up the last bits of land to carve enough room for the circle and officials said those land purchases could be OK’d within the next couple of months.

Paseo Santa Fe is a street beautification project that will ultimately stretch three-quarters of a mile on South Santa Fe Avenue, from Main Street to nearly Civic Center Drive. The entire project will run roughly $30 million, sliced into three (relatively equal) parts that will each cost about $10 million to complete.

The cost of the second phase will be covered by a combination of grants and savings. About $2 million will come from a regional half-cent sales tax known as Transnet, and $3.7 million will come from a different regional transportation grant. The rest — upwards of $4 million — comes from money the city set aside for redevelopment and street improvements.

The overhaul calls for permanently reducing South Santa Fe from four lanes to two, and adding three roundabouts to calm traffic. The same side sidewalks, gathering spaces and decorative street lights that mark the first phase will be repeated throughout the project.

The long-sought goal is a rebirth of Vista’s downtown, which — thanks to craft breweries — has already started to enjoy new life. Thus far, the beautification project has spurred private investment, just as the city had hoped. The pinnacle project may be the one the city approved last month: a five-story development on the dirt lot at Vista Village and Main Street. It’s prime real estate, the entrance to downtown.

The third and final phase of the project remains unfunded. But the construction design is already under way, Meyer said Monday.

“The commitment from the (City) Council is to go ahead and get these things designed, and as grant money appears they (the plans) are there and can be taken off the shelf and built,” Meyer said.