By Joe Tash
The effort to influence public opinion regarding a proposed mixed-use development in Carmel Valley is well underway, even though city hearings to determine the project’s fate are still months in the future.
Earlier this month, several Carmel Valley residents launched a website that raises concerns about potential impacts of the project planned for the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real.
The project is called Main Street, and is proposed by Kilroy Realty. The mixed-use development would be built on a 23.5-acre parcel and include 536,000 square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, and 600 condominiums and apartments. A draft environmental impact report on the project is expected to be released for public comment by mid-summer, said Robert Little, Kilroy’s vice president for development.
The proposal includes the construction of two office buildings — one 10 stories and one seven stories — and a 150-room business hotel, said Little.
Supporters contend the project will provide a long-desired, pedestrian-oriented gathering place for Carmel Valley, which includes shops, restaurants and movie theaters. The center will also boost the local economy by providing 700 construction jobs, 2,000 permanent jobs and several million dollars in anual tax revenue for the city of San Diego, said Little.
But residents such as Jerry Mailhot, one of the people who launched the website www.whatpricemainstreet.com, are concerned that traffic generated by the development will clog the area’s roadways. Mailhot and others also question whether the scale of the project is too big for Carmel Valley, and fear it will cause parking congestion on surrounding streets and parking lots.
“The way I see it, you might have to park a mile away in order to have the opportunity to walk on Main Street,” Mailhot said.
Mailhot, a former member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Group, said current zoning of the parcel would allow 500,000 square feet of office space, and the proposed Main Street plan nearly quadruples that level of development.
In order to move forward, Kilroy needs the city to approve a zoning change, a community plan amendment and a general plan amendment.
“This whole project sounds good, but right now, based on the facts we have, we don’t think this is feasible,” said Mailhot, because of the potential traffic, parking and size and scale issues. “If it’s obvious this is not feasible, we’re in favor of keeping the (community) plan as it is right now, since it’s already been approved, no changes.”
Little said some of the information on the residents’ website is incorrect. For example, the website states that the Main Street project will add more than 30,000 vehicle trips to Carmel Valley roads. Little said that figure is inaccurate, and the correct traffic numbers will be released with the draft environmental report. “I know their number is significantly overreaching.”
As part of the development, Little said, the company will pay for traffic improvements that will alleviate impacts from the project, and also address existing traffic issues in the area. “We’re prepared to put in a significant amount of investment offsite to mitigate those concerns,” he said.
He also refuted claims on the website that Main Street is 10 times more dense than the adjacent Del Mar Highlands Town Center, and twice the size of the University Town Center mall in San Diego.
According to Little, the Main Street project would include 220,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, and a 50,000-square-foot cinema. That compares with 275,000 square feet of shops at Del Mar Highlands, he said. Main Street would include less than one-fourth the retail square footage of UTC, he said, and comparing other development, such as office and residential, to the two shopping centers’ square footage is “grossly inaccurate,” he said. The UTC Macy’s store alone is 155,000 square feet, he said.
UTC’s total retail space is just over 1 million square feet, according to figures provided by Mailhot.
Little said Kilroy has worked closely with the community, including the Carmel Valley planning board, to refine its plans. “We have a lot of support for the plan and a lot of people have helped us get it to this stage,” he said.
The company will soon launch its own website to inform the public about the project, he said.
After the public comment period on the environmental report, the project will go before the Carmel Valley planning board, the San Diego Planning Commission and the San Diego City Council.