Converted shipping containers now house 124 people at an interim housing site in Mountain View, Calif. Photo taken Sept. 23, 2021. (Jana Kadah/Bay City News)

Monterey County supervisors punted Tuesday on a plan to build a senior care and assisted living facility with more than 100 units on a vacant lot near the Las Palmas Ranch subdivision south of Salinas.

The supervisors unanimously elected to send the project back to the county’s Planning Commission, amid concerns from the subdivision’s residents and homeowner’s association about the development’s proximity to the plot of single-family homes and about the affordability of the planned units.

The plan before the supervisors would have allowed for the construction of the River View at Las Palmas Assisted Living Facility, which would have included 13 casitas with 26 dwelling units, 40 assisted living units and a 21,600 square foot, three-story facility with 39 units for people suffering from memory loss illnesses like dementia.

The facility was to be developed on a vacant 15.74-acre lot near the intersection of River Road and state Route 68.

Real estate agency Anthony Lombardo and Associates, which is representing the project applicant, argued that the facility will be necessary in the coming years as the county’s population of seniors who need daily assistance increases.

At the board’s July 20 meeting — when the board voted to continue discussing the project at a meeting in August and, subsequently, Tuesday’s meeting — Lombardo cited a 2018 study by the California Association of Counties that estimated that more than 30 percent of Monterey County’s total population would be seniors by 2035.

On Tuesday, Lombardo acknowledged that, after talking with the subdivision’s homeowner’s association, the Las Palmas Ranch residents “were never going to be in favor” of the River View project.

In lieu of that, Lombardo proposed that the development be returned to the Planning Commission for consideration as a group of 30 single-story homes for seniors and with at least 10 of them kept affordable for low-income tenants.

The 30 percent housing affordability component “is extraordinarily high,” Lombardo said Tuesday with a chuckle. “In fact, I hope the board doesn’t require all my clients to have projects like that … This is an extraordinary circumstance with this client being willing to provide that high affordability.”

Christine Kemp, the attorney representing the Las Palmas Ranch homeowner’s association, agreed with Lombardo that the River View project will never be viable, but that a residential development is much more likely to get buy-in from the nearby residents.

Still, Kemp tempered expectations about the 30-unit concept the developer is now proposing. According to Lombardo, the parcel of land is zoned for up to 42 medium-density residential homes.

“That’s a lot,” Kemp said of the 30-unit proposal. “I’m hoping that there’s some middle ground that we find with the developer. I think the developer has an interest in not alienating the community.”

Board Chair Wendy Root Askew also acknowledged the River View project as dead on arrival, but also pushed back on concerns by Las Palmas Ranch residents, some of whom questioned whether the supervisors would want high-density senior housing near their homes.

“When I look at the Las Palmas community, I don’t see any reason to not feel that this would be an appropriate location,” Root Askew said. “I live in Marina; in my backyard I have more homeless shelter beds than the rest of the county combined. … I also have, within 50 feet of my own home, a senior residential care facility that is adjacent to my house.”

County staff had also noted in analyzing the project’s potential environmental impacts that it would detrimentally affect traffic near the project site.

Root Askew argued that higher-density housing would likely mitigate the traffic concerns to some extent as it is often more efficient than vehicle traffic to and from single-resident homes.

Lombardo argued that the parcel of land near the Las Palmas Ranch subdivision is one of few viable choices if the county intends to add more housing and assisted living services for seniors and low-income residents.

“There’s water and sewer service available to the site, and really (it) comes down to if not here, then where, because this is a site that is ready, willing and able to be used to solve or help solve our housing problems,” he said.

Several steps will be required before the county’s planning commission and the board are likely to hear the proposal again, including an updated tentative map of the project and changes to the project’s environmental impact report and engineering plans.

All told, the process could take upwards of a year before the board and the planning commission are again able to consider a proposed development near Las Palmas Ranch, according to county officials.