By John Kerridge
It’s encouraging that the residents of Carmel Valley have coalesced into a community that recognizes the threat posed to its quality of life by the very forces that brought it into being in the first place. For many of them, the prehistory of what is now their community is probably shrouded in the mists of time. But those of us who, as neighbors, lived through the birth-pangs of that development, can help put their present struggles against the One Paseo project in its true context.
When conceived, the development we now know as Carmel Valley was a project called North City West. The essence of the project was to shoehorn a large, but relatively low-intensity development into an area that the City of San Diego General Plan had set aside as open space for potential future development. For several years, the proposal was stalled by its failure to capture a majority of votes on the San Diego City Council, not exactly a development-averse group. (How that stalemate was resolved in favor of the developers represents a fascinating insight into Southern California land-use realpolitik, but we can’t get into that now.)
The North City West plan that was ultimately approved, if it had anything going for it, at least mandated a relatively low development density, bringing with it the promise of tranquil suburban living with a great deal of open space. But within milliseconds of project approval, the developers were back before the City of San Diego wanting to eliminate a park here, or increase a development density there. Ultimately, this strategy worked appallingly well, thanks to turnover of San Diego City officials and exhaustion on the part of local activists. So as the years went by, North City West, as it morphed into Carmel Valley, became increasingly densely developed, but even then nothing could have anticipated the staggering inappropriateness of One Paseo within this context.
One Paseo represents the exact antithesis of such promise as North City West provided. One could argue that it represents a fraud on those who purchased residential property in the area, misled by illusory images of an idyllic lifestyle.
To the Carmel Valley activists, the message is simple: Ceaseless vigilance, relentless struggle for your land-use rights.