Planning for new Carmel Valley shopping center creates a buzz

A planned Carmel Valley mixed-use shopping center has Carmel Valley residents expressing both excitement and concern.

Kilroy Realty recently sent brochures to nearly every Carmel Valley neighborhood explaining its plans to create a "Main Street for Carmel Valley" on the large empty lot at El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.

The brochure details plans for the office, residential and retail center, designed by Elkus Manfredi, the architect behind Los Angeles' The Grove shopping center. Renderings show gathering spaces, outdoor cafes and tree-lined sidewalks for people to take "a moonlit stroll" after a late dessert at a bistro.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board held a special meeting on June 23 to look "beyond the glamour" of the brochure and get to the "hard questions," as regional subcommittee co-Chair Jan Fuchs said. The board is drafting a letter to the city on the scope of an environmental impact report for the new project.

Planning board members and residents generally said they like the project concept, but they are worried about its scale and the extra traffic it could generate.

"I'd love to see this kind of thing built here, without the traffic," board member Rick Newman said.

The board's letter will state that significant review should be considered in the areas of land use, transportation/circulation/parking, neighborhood quality, noise, water quality, health and safety.

In their mailed materials, Kilroy officials strongly encourage community input as they develop what they hope will become "the heart of the community."

"Your input is extremely valuable to us," wrote Robert Little, vice president of commercial development. "It is because of our candid conversations with locals that we were able to create a plan that we believe reflects the real needs of the community — and one that we hope you will be as excited about as we are."

Residents in attendance said the plans looked "lovely" but that they weren't quite sure what they were looking at. Resident Ginny Barnes said there weren't many specific details in the package as to square footage and number of dwelling units, but she said Kilroy was successful in creating a buzz.

"My very apathetic neighborhood is now all talking about (the project)," Barnes said.

The land is currently zoned for corporate offices and will require a zone change as well as an amendment to the Carmel Valley community plan. Kilroy is entitled to 510,000 square feet, but it is planning for 836,000 square feet on the lot.

Carmel Valley planning board member Anne Harvey said the planning board needs to carefully consider the changes it will have to make to the community plan — will this amendment make the community better or worse? Will it allow uses residents don't want to invade Carmel Valley, such as big box stores?

Resident and former planning board member Ken Farinsky said people are always asking what is planned for the big empty lot where Kilroy plans to build its project and they are always disappointed when they hear it's meant to be office space and parking lot.

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