Carmel Valley community meeting on proposed One Paseo project draws crowd

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Artist rendering of the One Paseo project

By Joe Tash

Contributor

A proposed mixed-use development for the last large, undeveloped parcel in the heart of Carmel Valley is already generating strong opinions by residents both for and against the project, although it remains uncertain when it will actually be built.

More than 100 people turned out Saturday morning, Sept. 24, for a special meeting of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, where representatives of Kilroy Realty laid out their vision for One Paseo, a project that would include retail shops and restaurants, office buildings, condominiums and apartments on a 23-acre parcel at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real.

Several dozen residents also filled out speaker slips to voice their opinion on the project, and speakers were about evenly divided between supporters and opponents. A group opposed to the project, What Price Main Street, made an organized presentation.

Those against the project were generally concerned with the density of the proposed development and the traffic it might generate, while supporters said the community needs the type of focal point – and local shopping and entertainment options — the project would provide.

Bob Little, Kilroy’s vice president for development, said the company has conducted hundreds of research interviews over the past three years with residents and other “stakeholders,” and what they often heard was, “the community was lacking a place to gather… it was lacking a heart.”

Project architect Howard Elkus outlined a proposal for a vibrant development with a central “Main Street” corridor lined with shops, restaurants and a cinema, anchored by a landscaped plaza with a large lawn where people could relax. At the south end of the development would stand two office buildings and an underground parking garage, while at the north end, along Del Mar Heights Rd., would be 608 apartments and condominiums.

The project has many access points from the surrounding streets, Elkus said.

“It’s not just that you can get there from here, you can see in and understand what’s happening inside,” Elkus said. “We’re not creating an island or a fortress unto itself.”

Before the vision can be realized, however, the developer must seek approval from the local planning board, the San Diego Planning Commission and, ultimately, the San Diego City Council. The next major step in the approval process will be the release of a draft environmental impact report, which will include a detailed traffic study, for review and comment by the public.

Little said the environmental documents are currently under review by city staff, and he is not sure when they will be made public, although he hopes the draft EIR will be released by the end of the year.

Bob Fuchs, with the What Price Main Street group, said the developer’s tactic in promoting the project is “accentuate the positive and obscure the negative.”

The property is currently zoned for 500,000 square feet of office space, and the developer seeks to nearly quadruple allowable construction on the site, which could cause traffic jams and parking problems on surrounding streets and dwarf nearby development, Fuchs said.

“It will be superimposing a UTC (University Town Center) or downtown density on Carmel Valley,” Fuchs said.

“I don’t think anyone can deny there’s going to be more traffic, more noise and more pollution” if the project is built, said resident Gene Helsel.

Jerry Mailhot, who earlier this year helped launch a website opposed to the project, also questioned the amount of development planned for the site. “You just can’t put 20 pounds of sand in a 10-pound bag,” he said.

Others, though, said the project is just what Carmel Valley needs.

“After seeing that presentation I can’t believe anyone is against the project, there’s something for everyone,” said Sharon Fornaciari.

Lois Leslie, who described herself as a working parent, said the project is needed to increase shopping options for her family. “Spending precious weekend hours away from our families for basic shopping has been a real frustration.”

And Mike Reidy said he would have preferred more density, rather than less.

“I’m for it. I’m sick of driving to Encinitas, I’m sick of driving to UTC. Let’s get it done,” he said.

As proposed, the Kilroy project would contain 270,000 square feet of retail, including a 50,000-square-foot cinema; 515,000 square feet of corporate office space; 26,000 square feet of small professional office space; and approximately 900,000 square feet of residential, which includes 608 condos and apartments, and a 150-room hotel. The Del Mar Highlands shopping center, which is across the street, has 278,000 square feet of retail.

Little said it is misleading to compare the project’s entire square footage with a commercial development such as UTC, because more than half of the One Paseo development is residential.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” he said.

The One Paseo project, he said, is an example of compact development, a concept embraced by contemporary planners as an antidote to traffic-generating urban sprawl.

For more information on the project, visit the developer’s website at www.onepaseo.com, or the opponents’ site at

www.whatpricemainstreet.com

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