Carmel Valley in 2010: A year of progress, change

Councilmember Sherri Lightner and members of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 20 at Ocean Air Community Park to commemorate the grand opening of the park and recreation center. Ocean Air principal Ryan Stanley and students Jordan Shimizu and Gia Sullivan helped Lightner do the honors.
Councilmember Sherri Lightner and members of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 20 at Ocean Air Community Park to commemorate the grand opening of the park and recreation center. Ocean Air principal Ryan Stanley and students Jordan Shimizu and Gia Sullivan helped Lightner do the honors.

By Karen Billing

All things considered, 2010 was a relatively good year for Carmel Valley. New homes continued to be built and new families moved into the neighborhood to take advantage of the excellent, top-rated schools. A proposition that voters approved this year will help one community grow, and plans were made and projects started to upgrade and build local shopping centers.

The economy, that nasty “E” word, factored into most every conversation, there was Twitter and “Twilight,” and moms and dads became familiar with a phenomenon named Justin Beiber. There were some tumultuous times for the Del Mar Union School District but toward the end of the year, a sense of calm.

Here’s a look back at some of the happenings of 2010.


The long-awaited Ocean Air Recreation Center opened its doors to the public on Jan. 20, about three months after the new park. The entire recreation center was built with “green” thinking, designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) qualifications. Rooftop solar collectors provide 10 percent of electricity needs, recycled glass created the flooring in the lobby and corridor, and 50 percent of the wood products used were from managed forests. The building's many windows allow for more than 75 percent of the building to be lit by natural light.

Carmel Valley residents were moved to contribute to Haiti after a devastating earthquake struck on Jan. 12. Students at Ashley Falls held a spare change drive and students at Carmel Creek collected shoes. Several residents, such as Scripps Health CEO Dr. Chris Van Gorder and Canyon Crest Academy teacher Mark Raines, even contributed their time and traveled to Haiti to provide medical care. Solana Pacific students sold handmade friendship bracelets to buy a water filtration device for earthquake victims and Jimbo’s…Naturally customers raised $15,000 to support Doctors Without Borders.

An eight-month-long 7-11 committee process wrapped up with a final meeting on Jan. 13 at Sage Canyon School. The report detailed its findings that none of its proposals to reconfigure a school to make room for the district office gained 80 percent consensus among the members. In February, the board took school closure officially off the table.


Feedback was collected on plans to refresh and upgrade Carmel Valley’s Del Mar Highlands Town Center. General Manager Elizabeth Schreiber said they heard three things loud and clear: Improved gathering places, improved restaurant selection, and frustration with the jam-packed parking lot. The center update, on which phase one began in late August, includes more parking, an overhaul of the amphitheater, a covered outdoor escalator and more eateries, including Rimel’s Rotisserie, The Counter and Carmel Valley Swirls. The UltraStar Cinemas will also undergo a complete restoration and will close in January for five to six months.


On March 30, the Del Mar Union School Board voted 3-1 to fire school district superintendent Sharon McClain. President Comischell Rodriguez was the sole “no” vote and Steven McDowell opted to abstain.

Rodriguez said the vote terminated McClain due to a material breach of contract and “serious performance violations.”

“I truly feel that I have done the best job I can do,” McClain said. “I feel that I wanted to stay, I would’ve stayed because I love this district.”

A lawsuit against the district, which was filed by McClain in October, is suing the district for breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, failure to pay wages and violation of McClain’s due process rights.


James D. Peabody was named the new interim superintendent of the Del Mar Union School District on April 1, one day after former district superintendent Sharon McClain was released with cause from her contract. About a month later on May 6, Peabody, the former superintendent of the Julian Union High School District, was hired permanently.

On April 26, DMUSD President Comischell Rodriguez stepped down from her post as the president of the board, citing her fellow board members’ lack of support, violations of protocol and “petty power struggles.” She would remain on the board.

“I am still going to be there with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm for the district as before,” Rodriguez said.

Steven McDowell was selected as the new board president.


The Del Mar/Solana Beach Optimist Club handed out its annual Children’s Challenge Awards to 12 outstanding local students in the areas of community service, courage, science, arts, fellowship and humanities. Del Mar Hills sixth grader Noah Severns was among the recipients in the area of courage. Diagnosed at age 6 with bone cancer he underwent numerous chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Although a surgery left his left side partially paralyzed, his teacher Allison Warren said he still walked tall and proud, always coming back to school without complaining.

Sadly, Noah passed away on Sept. 17. Hundreds of people attended a memorial held at Seagrove Park.

"They say angels aren't human, I say they haven't met Noah,” his sister Megan, a Canyon Crest Academy junior, said at the memorial. “Angels don't lose battles. They just move on once their work here is done.”


Carmel Valley residents got a peek at a “Mainstreet for Carmel Valley,” a mixed-use center planned by Kilroy Realty for the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road. Renderings show gathering spaces and outdoor cafes—places to grab lunch and shop with a friend and tree-lined sidewalks to take “a moonlit stroll” after a late dessert at a bistro. The center will also include office buildings, restaurants, shops, a movie theater and a high-end supermarket. There will also be a 150-room hotel and 608 new residential units.

While some residents have voiced support for the project, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board has expressed concerns about the size and scale of the project, the traffic impacts and the project’s ability to completely change the character of Carmel Valley.

Autistic student Jeremy Sicile-Kira delivered a commencement speech to his fellow Torrey Pines High School graduates on June 18. Although he cannot speak, he used voice- assisted technology to deliver his message.

“I am nervous but very touched that I am giving a speech,” said Jeremy before his speech, using a letter board to spell out his words. “I want to tell them never give up on your dreams.”


Caltrans released a 1,000-page draft environmental report on the proposed widening of Interstate-5 and followed up with a series of public meetings throughout the county. Four alternatives were studied in the EIR, including widening the 5 between La Jolla and Carlsbad by four to six lanes at a cost of $3.4 to $4.8 billion. Local response centered on concerns with visual, noise and air pollution, how the project would change the coastal community character and if other transportation solutions might be explored.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board voted 11-3 in support of the Flower Hill Promenade’s expansion plans. The renovation includes replacing UltraStar Cinemas with a Whole Foods, as well as adding new retail and boutique office space and offering a facelift for the older area of the mall. Plans for the renovation have changed greatly in size and scale over the last four years in response to community concerns.

“This is the shot in the arm this center needs,” said Brian Miller, owner of Geppetto’s. “The center was built 33 years ago and it’s time for a change.”


It took guts, a strong flutter kick and the mental strength to overpower an aching shoulder but at age 56, Carmel Valley’s Barbara Held broke the record for the oldest woman to complete the Catalina Channel swim from the island to the mainland.

On Aug. 17, Held completed the swim in nine hours, 36 minutes and 53 seconds.

After serving 29 years on the San Dieguito Union School District Board, trustee Dee Rich said she would not seek re-election.

“During my many years as a trustee, I have been fortunate to share my passion for excellence in education with board members who have kept academic achievement for every student as their number one focus,” Rich said.

In the November elections, voters re-elected Barbara Groth to the SDUHSD board along with new trustees John Salazar and Amy Herman.


Carmel Valley’s schools took the top spots in the county when the state’s Academic Performance Index scores were released. Carmel Valley Middle School is the best in the county, with an API of 967, Canyon Crest Academy was the highest rated high school with a score of 894. Five of the top 10 scoring elementary schools in San Diego County are in Carmel Valley, including Ocean Air, Sycamore Ridge, Solana Pacific and Torrey Hills Schools.

Carmel Valley’s Northwestern Division became the site of one of only two prescription drop-off boxes in the city of San Diego, an effort to help fight prescription drug abuse in the community.

“The misuse of OxyContin and other prescription drugs affects all San Diego neighborhoods, but the neighborhoods of Torrey Pines, Carmel Valley and La Jolla are particularly affected,” Councilmember Sherri Lightner said, noting the drugs have played a role in residential burglaries, armed robberies and, unfortunately, overdose deaths. “Our local residents will now have a safe, discreet way to dispose of unwanted and expired medications.”

The Ocean Air School’s new childcare center opened for students and staff after a quick 57-day construction. Ocean Air was the last school in the district to have a childcare center.


A city recycled water pipeline project closed down the popular Highway 56 bike path from Carmel Country Road to Carmel Valley Road in October. The route is expected to re-open on Feb. 15 next year. While the repaving of the path will make for a smoother ride, it will be a long four months for runners, walkers and cyclists who use the path daily.

“We miss our bike path,” wrote one Carmel Valley News reader after hearing of the closure.


The month kicked off with the Nov. 2 election. In the contested Del Mar school district race, in which five candidates sought three seats on the board, the public voted in new board members Scott Wooden. Doug Rafner and Kristin Gibson.

Prop C, which will untie the development of Pacific Highlands Ranch community from the Interstate 5/5Highway 56 interchange project also passed with 70 percent of the vote.

The Torrey Pines High School football team nearly went undefeated this season, losing its only game of the season to La Costa Canyon on Nov. 12. The Falcons would go on to the playoffs and lose in the semi-finals in a heartbreaker: 20-17.

Cathedral Catholic would won its third straight football championship.

The Torrey Pines girls golf team won the state championship and the girls tennis team won their 21st straight championship, a remarkable period of dominance.


The Del Mar school district takes a big step toward purchasing a new district office on El Camino Real. If the sale is completed, the staff could move in by February.



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