Around 2010, the city of Vista began some municipal soul-searching.
The City Council looked to redevelop underused areas – like a suburban shopping plaza called Breeze Hill Promenade – into places that could serve neighborhoods and bring some life to the streets.
The city was working on a new General Plan, a vision to guide its future, with a goal to replace car-oriented development in certain areas, with mixed residential and retail buildings oriented toward the street to improve walkability and public safety, and to fight climate change.
Most cities define “mixed use” as a combination of residential and commercial development. Vista officials, thinking more about how to kick-start development downtown, allowed developers to decide how much residential or retail they would build, including none.
“A lot of this talk happened six years ago or more, and SANDAG and others were telling cities that this was going to work for your transportation hubs, and it’s what property owners will be looking for,” said Councilman John Aguilera.
In November, the City Council voted 4-1 to allow the strip mall to be demolished and replaced with 88 apartments. The decision might be a window into what could happen if the city continues to cede control over defining mixed use.
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The handwriting was on the wall ... The days of a profitable small storefront are rapidly disappearing for many reasons. The cost to rent, utilities, labor and various licenses make running a small storefront difficult. It is also hard to compete against the Internet. Vista is a typical UN Agenda 21 / 2030 experiment. What they did to "Paseo Santa Fe" aka S. Santa Fe isn't good. They massively increased density, cut the road in half and installed a massive traffic circle, I avoid the area now. The dream of getting people out of their cars and on bicycles and walking simply isn't going to happen.
Here's my take on Vista's mixed use zoning.
I'm shocked, I say, developers given free rein and this is what we get? You say they just went for the bottom line? And here I thought all along that they cared about their communities.
To have truly mixed-use buildings, where EVERY ground floor is retail/commercial, you need the density of a place like Manhattan. And, even in Manhattan, you have many residential-only streets at high density. That level of intensity is what's necessary to support the retail.
Rather than requiring every building to be mixed-use, planners have begun to realize that a district should be mixed-use, providing close proximity of housing and commercial close to each other.
It's not a surprise, then, that areas that are heavily or exclusively commercial like Breeze Hill and South Santa Fe, then, are seeing an influx of housing to create a better balance. Requiring each building to add commercial and housing at a fixed ratio is likely to further the commercial imbalance and is not a best practice.