You can never win in Carlsbad

Episcopal church wrestles with retirement home and pickleball

Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement Community. The extra income “would take care of the church for many years to come.”
  • Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement Community. The extra income “would take care of the church for many years to come.”
  • DPR Construction

The Carlsbad By The Sea Retirement Community’s ten-year waiting list makes it one of the more popular residences of the ten-facility Front Porch Retirement Community group. The minimum entry fee for the 147-room complex on Carlsbad Boulevard/Highway 101 is $102,000. Tenants pay $3,985 a month and up.

St. Michael's pickleball courts

St. Michael's pickleball courts

Carlsbad By The Sea Retirement is looking to its immediate neighbor to the north for help with its expansion plans. Discussions have begun with St. Michael’s Episcopal Church about building a Front Porch annex on adjacent property the church owns.

Carlsbad by the Sea executive director Joan Johnson concedes that her company is looking into acquiring the property which she says would house a “memory care building.” She says that if the deal happens, “It looks like it would be a lease,” versus a sale. But she says any completed project “Is so far away.”

St. Michael’s Episcopal, established in Carlsbad in 1894, long ago was deeded commercial property on the corner of Beech Avenue and Carlsbad Boulevard by parishioner Florence Magee who died in 1975. (The nearby Magee House is a City of Carlsbad-owned museum.) That commercial property is currently home to a few small businesses including a florist called Hey Flower Man and real estate company McLain Properties. Those 30-year-old buildings would be demolished should the deal with Front Porch go through.

St. Michael’s Reverend Doran Stambaugh says his church has begun talks with Carlsbad by the Sea to give that retirement community a long-term lease.

One current member of St. Michael’s says that once the deal goes through, the extra income “would take care of the church for many years to come.” Three years ago the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego folded St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Oceanside and sold the property due to declining membership and red ink. All Saints Episcopal in Vista struggled with solvency in recent years but has rebounded.

Stambaugh says he understands Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement’s current plans include building a one- or two-story complex. Storefronts may be on the first floor and residences on the second. The two-story Village by the Sea complex directly across the street on Carlsbad Boulevard has condos on the top floor and stores (Dolce Salon, Carlsbad Coffee House) on the ground level.

“We are meeting with them this week,” says Stambaugh about the ongoing discussions involving himself, members of his St. Michael’s vestry, and Carlsbad by the Sea. “I would say we are proceeding slow but steady.”

Meanwhile Stambaugh tells of an unusual struggle involving a neighbor who lives across the street in the Village by the Sea complex and St. Michael’s pickleball courts that the church opened in 2016. Pickleball is a tennis/ping pong hybrid played with wide paddles. St. Michaels’ pickeball courts are located between the church and the commercial property sought by Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement.

“We got a grant to build the courts from the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation.” Says Stambaugh. “The closest outdoor pickleball courts to here are Melba Bishop Park in Oceanside and Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Encinitas…Pickleball in intergenerational. I’m told it’s the fastest growing sport in America.”

He said the church was given official permission by the city to build the courts following a preliminary review. But once the neighbor complained of pickleball noise, the city interceded. The upshot is that St. Michael’s agreed to put up a 12-foot fence by August 12 with soundproofing on Carlsbad Boulevard.

“We could have appealed it but we chose not to,” says Stambaugh. He says the kerfuffle ended up costing the church more than $30,000.

The irony, says longtime resident and Carlsbad Historical Society member Sue Ladouceur is that the fence will block the ocean views of the residents of the Village by Sea condos. “That sounds stupid to me,” says Ladouceur. “Her neighbors are not going to be happy with her for that.”

Ladouceur, who made it clear she is only speaking for herself, says she hopes the proposed new retirement facility will not exceed two stories considering recent development. “The new thing they are building where the old Packard dental building is horrible looking,” she said of the four-story building now under construction on Grand Avenue. “It’s really awful. The reason we live in Carlsbad is to avoid buildings like that.”

St. Michael’s hosts a second anniversary celebration of its pickleball courts this Sunday, August 5, from noon to 4pm.

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