Ann Gardner | Via Latina
|Photo Bud Emerson
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With an 11 to 2 vote the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board rejected the proposed 1.45 million sq. ft One Paseo project at Del Mar Heights and El Camino Real and recommended that the City of San Diego ask the applicant to submit a smaller mixed-use project more in keeping with the Community Plan which allows only 500,000 sq, feet. The September 11 meeting and vote was limited to a Question and Answer dialogue between the Board and City of San Diego Development Services Department (DSD) staff only; public input had been taken at an earlier Planning Board meeting. DSD staff has prepared the One Paseo Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) which recommends, based on economic benefits, approving the massive project despite impacts on traffic (a 370% increase) and community character (some nine-story buildings) that cannot be mitigated. The Board questioned staff about their recommendation.
Planning Board: Why are economic considerations weighed heavier than quality of life in a community? How can staff make such a strong recommendation given the significant and unmitigated impacts to our community?
DSD Staff: The Project implements the San Diego General Plan for a Community of Villages concept that promotes more varied housing, villages connected by public transit, pedestrian access and other social elements. We saw the vacant space as an opportunity to establish a new Community Village with a town center in Carmel Valley. On balance we thought the benefits outweighed the impacts
Planning Board: Carmel Valley already has a town center that includes a library, schools, a recreational center, parks, fire and police stations and a low scale pedestrian oriented shopping center plus our share of affordable housing. One Paseo would be a separate enclosed development with
out-of-scale buildings, unconnected to our existing center and is car oriented. If public transit is considered an essential piece of the Community Village concept, why are you supporting a large scale, regional project here where there is no public transit?
DSD: Cal Trans will be building Rapid Transit Bus lanes as part of their expansion of I-5 in 2030 and in the meantime shuttles will serve as a proxy. We grappled with this issue but felt it was a chicken versus egg issue and more density makes transit more viable.
Planning Board: Is the proposed project phased along with Caltrans improvements including the I-5/56 connector at Carmel Valley Road?
Planning Board: What do we do in the meantime?
DSD: We understand there are conflicts, something you should put forward.
Planning Board: The smaller reduced mixed-use alternative in the FEIR was unfairly dismissed as infeasible. Who determined it was infeasible?
DSD: The Applicant.
Planning Board: Did you see their feasibility studies?
DSD: Yes, the studies seemed reasonable.
At one point, as awareness of the futility of their answers began to set in, DSD staff responded ”You’re not going to like our answer on that either.” Review by a Community Board is part of San Diego’s project approval process; the vote is advisory only to the City Planning Commission and City Council. The Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the project October 2 and the San Diego City Council before the end of the year. Reportedly after the meeting, DSD staff was asked if they would consider the Carmel Valley recommendation and the answer was “no.”