By Joe Tash/Contributor
Members of the public may soon have the opportunity to comment on an environmental impact report for a proposed mixed-use development at the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights in Carmel Valley that would include office buildings, shops, restaurants, a hotel, a movie theater and homes.
Project developer Kilroy Realty is working with the city of San Diego to finalize the environmental document, which will then be open to the public for review and comment, said Robert Little, the company’s vice president for development.
Once the EIR has been circulated, the project can go before the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, possibly by late spring or early summer, said Little. Ultimately, the project will require approval by the San Diego City Council.
The project is planned for a 23.5-acre parcel bounded by Del Mar Heights Road on the north, El Camino Real to the east and High Bluff Drive to the west. The project would stand across El Camino Real from the existing Del Mar Highlands shopping center.
One of the key features of the project will be an outdoor “Main Street” lined with shops, restaurants and two public plazas, said Little.
“It’s sort of the heart of the project and will become the heart of the community. It’s an authentic Main Street,” said Little.
Since the project was first proposed about 18 months ago, the developer has made several presentations before the planning board, and the project has been modified.
The latest version of the project includes 806,000 square feet of commercial space, which breaks down to 515,000 square feet of office space, 21,000 square feet of professional small office and 270,000 square feet of retail, said Little. Two office buildings are proposed, one 10 stories tall and one seven stories.
Among the proposed retail uses are a movie theater, restaurants, shops and a grocery store. The project would also include 600 condos and apartments, and a small business hotel located on the main street, Little said. The residential units would be built in phases, he said.
Frisco White, chairman of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, said he believes residents generally support the concept of a mixed-use development at the site, but are concerned about such issues as the proposed project’s bulk and scale, and the traffic it would generate.
On the plus side, he said, he agreed with Little that the project would provide a town center for Carmel Valley that is now missing.
“That’s the positive, but with the positive comes all these other issues that need to be resolved,” White said.
“I think it’s a project worthy of serious consideration, it’s just a matter of how the multiple issues are able to be mitigated and worked out,” he said.
For example, White said, some residents are concerned that one or two traffic lights may be installed along Del Mar Heights, between existing signals at High Bluff and El Camino Real. Additional signals might result in stop-and-go traffic along Del Mar Heights, he said.
“People are concerned there will be more congestion because of additional stops the cars would have to make,” said White.
White said he believes such issues can be resolved, and that the developer has shown a willingness to compromise in response to community concerns.
Kilroy Realty has hired Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects to design the project. The firm has designed numerous projects throughout California, including Downtown Disney in Anaheim and The Grove in Los Angeles.
Howard Elkus, a principal with the architectural firm, said the goal is to realize the benefits of density, such as lively, vibrant public spaces, while keeping the development to a “human scale” that meshes with surrounding uses and avoids a jarring visual impact.
“It will be a heavily pedestrian environment, where the car has access but people will use this on foot, so it’s really smart and green development,” Elkus said.
Little said the developer is seeking certification of the project from the U.S. Green Building Council, which is awarded for such elements as energy efficiency, walkability and use of environmentally-friendly building materials.
Dave Odmark of Cassidy Turley/BRE Commercial, who is marketing the office space proposed for the project, said it will offer large blocks of space which are lacking in the Carmel Valley office market.
Odmark said rates for office space in Carmel Valley flattened out last year and are poised to slowly increase in 2011. If the project comes on line in the next two to three years, he said, “the timing of the project should work well with the recovery.”