Ann Gardner | Via Latina
On Wednesday, January 13, ten members of the Carmel Valley Planning Board split their vote 5-5 on the “new” One Paseo project. The project had shrunk from 1.4 million square feet to 1.2 million after a referendum campaign and lawsuits forced the San Diego City Council to rescind their February, 2015 approval. But the new project that will now go to the San Diego Planning Commission for review without Carmel Valley’s approval is still twice the allowed zoning. And half of the sitting Board thought it was still too big.
Over 150 people attended the January 13 meeting. This was a surprise. Neighbors had organized an amazing community revolt when the larger project was approved by the San Diego City Council. They initiated a successful citywide initiative referendum and filed lawsuits. They organized protest demonstrations, wrote letters to every editor, went on the radio and television, organized community planning groups throughout San Diego and finally sat down with Kilroy Realty to draw up terms for a settlement focused on a 40% reduction in traffic, wider setbacks, shorter buildings and more pedestrian space. Seemingly a done deal. But the reduction in square feet was only about 200,000 square feet. That’s what stuck in the minds of many residents attending the Jan. 13 meeting: the density, the building heights, and the traffic - reduced but still over what current zoning would have generated.
Was all that work worth it? Planning Board Chair Frisco White who had voted against the original larger project read a motion to approve: “One Paseo to some will never be accepted or desired, but we must understand that a development of some sort will be constructed on the site and that we must at times reach a decision that will be beneficial. Therefore, [the Board] supports the New One Paseo… with the following requirements, conditions and understanding.” Those conditions included a serious dialog to provide public transportation…extending to Del Mar and Solana Beach, a rooftop passive public park, the establishment of a temporary Rapid Response Team or a new fire station on the western side of I-5 shared with Del Mar to serve Del Mar Heights, and additional affordable housing. Board member Ken Farinsky, a founder of What Price Main Street and the referendum initiative, voted to support acknowledging that many would be unhappy with his vote but acknowledging Kilroy Realty’s willingness to make the requested changes, it was “the pragmatic” thing to do. The five no votes echoed concerns raised by the audience: too big, too dense, too much traffic and out of character with the neighborhood.
One year ago the San Diego City Council voted to approve the larger One Paseo 7 to 2 (only Councilmembers Lightner and Emerald voting no) despite an 11-2 recommendation from the Carmel Valley Planning Board to oppose in favor of an 850,000 square foot project. It seems likely with an improved vote for support, the San Diego Planning Commission and Council will approve the new One Paseo without much fanfare and with a nod toward the cooperation between a community and a developer to compromise. But not everyone will agree.