By Karen Billing
A sizeable draft environmental impact report (EIR) on proposed development One Paseo has been circulating for nearly a month as Kilroy Realty continues its efforts to create a “Main Street” for Carmel Valley. The EIR gives the opportunity for people to weigh in on what it might mean for the community.
“We’re focusing on working with the local planning board and community to make sure the plan that moves forward is something that is embraced,” Robert Little, vice president of development at Kilroy Realty said.
The city has extended the comment deadline to May 29 and the plan will be discussed locally at the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board at its meeting tonight (April 26) and at the subcommittee level.
Little said they anticipate a lot of comments and they will have to address them all to move on with the process but said they are very excited to be at this point.
“It’s a lot of work but we’re very happy because the whole CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process is the critical part to getting the project moving,” Little said.
One Paseo is planned for the lot on El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights at 1,857,440 square feet of development. There will be 270,000 square feet of commercial retail, 557,440 square feet of commercial office, a 100,000-square-foot hotel and 608 multi-family residential units. There will be a total of 4,809 parking spaces throughout the project in underground parking, one above-ground parking structure and small surface lots.
At the heart of the plan is a “Main Street” for Carmel Valley, with a walkable center of shops, restaurants, offices, residences and a movie theater.
Janette Littler, a Carmel Valley resident who said she would feel the impacts as well as anyone at her home on Townsgate Drive, said she loves the idea of Carmel Valley getting a “community landmark.”
She attended one of Kilroy’s workshops and was impressed by how they interacted with the community and wanted to become involved.
“I really do support this,” Littler said. “I want to make sure it happens.”
While there are some that like the project and how it could change Carmel Valley, an opposition group called What Price Main Street has also formed to take a stand against the mixed-use development that they feel is way too big for the community,
“Nobody is opposed to the concepts in their plan,” said opponent Bob Fuchs. “But expanding something four times what is currently entitled with token improvements creates impacts felt by the whole community. That concept is hard to get across, especially in the face of their PR campaign that’s misleading and misrepresenting.”
“It’s easy to say ‘We’d love to have a Henry’s and a Main Street’, whatever it is,” opponent Ken Farinsky said. “But it’s so hard to explain the impact of this project and how big it is.”
Since the 4,500-page draft EIR was released on March 29, Fuchs has spent significant time going over the details and researching — he estimates he spent about five hours a day on it and that’s “just scratching the surface.”
“It’s really monstrous project and it’s going to have serious impacts,” Fuchs said. “Del Mar Heights to I-5 is a serious, significant and unmitigatable impact. It can’t be fixed.”
The Draft EIR found that the project would result in significant direct or cumulative impacts to transportation/circulation/parking, visual effects and neighborhood character, noise, health and safety and historical resources, but that they would be able to be reduced to a level below significance with mitigation.
But the two unmitigatable impacts the EIR found were the traffic (transportation/circulation/parking) and visual effects and neighborhood character.
The significant, unmitigatable impacts occur on Del Mar Heights from I-5 southbound ramps to I-5 northbound ramps; Del Mar Heights from I-5 northbound ramps to High Bluff Drive; El Camino Real from Via de la Valle to San Dieguito Road; El Camino Real to SR-56 eastbound on ramp; and Via de la Valle from San Andres Drive to El Camino Real.
“A key point to remember is that the traffic impacts and the generations are based on full project build out with all the known and possible cumulative projects added in,” Little said. “Impacts are seen at the peak hour of the day; the EIR and traffic study look at the worse case scenario.”
Fuchs believes that the worse case scenario is something everyone should be aware of.
“It could cripple Carmel Valley,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs pointed to a SANDAG study that 81 percent of households has someone that commutes more than 10 minutes. He said One Paseo could add 25 minutes of commute to westbound on Del Mar Heights Road to the I-5 southbound ramp.
Kilroy is doing its part to mitigate traffic impacts and the EIR states that many of the mitigations will bring the impacts down below significant impact. Mitigation includes payment of a fair-share contribution toward specific improvements on El Camino Real/SR-56 eastbound on ramp intersection, as well as toward the timed meters on the I-5 ramps.
The EIR says those improvements would fully mitigate the impacts but the city has no control over when those improvements would be installed.
Little said by and large the project mitigates the impacts identified; however, at full build out there are a couple areas that remain unmitigated along with what CEQA requires to be called unmitigated.
“This is where the project pays its fair share contribution but we need to identify those improvements ‘unmitigated’ from a CEQA perspective,” Little said.
Fuchs worries about the fact there is no control over when improvements might happen.
“Because there’s no guarantees, the community could be stuck with impacts everywhere,” Fuchs said.
Littler said that she likes the traffic circulation improvements that Kilroy is offering the community, as far as using smart technology to synchronize the traffic signals and a new right turn lane when you’re headed east on Del Mar Heights, turning right onto El Camino Real.
“We always split the lane and drive into the bike path. This project gives us a whole new right turn lane. I love that they’re taking care of a current problems in their plan,” said Littler. “These are privately funded amenities we would never have if it was left up to the city of San Diego.”
Kilroy has said that it will reduce traffic delays in the system up to 46 percent.
Fuchs said he has his reservations about the synchronization system and has looked into its efficiency in San Marcos. At best he said it improved traffic delay by 13 percent and at worst, worsened it by 4 percent.
“If it was so good how come every city in the county isn’t using this thing?” Fuchs said.
Littler said improvements like those are expensive and what Kilroy is able to offer is above what the city is able to provide.
Fuchs and Farinsky said it’s hard for them to explain how dense One Paseo will be because they cannot find anything else like this that exists in a suburban area like Carmel Valley.
Fuchs said a more densely populated area like downtown could tolerate this “high density development” because it has circulation and access at multiple points and mass transit.
Kilroy’s plan does call for rapid transit from Oceanside and University Towne center along the Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real corridors with a transit stop on El Camino Real.
Fuchs said that bringing people from Oceanside sounds like an isolated solution.
“It’s not a bus where people in the community can use it to get to One Paseo from Del Mar,” Fuchs said.
However, there are some developments that are within walking distance.
Farinksy said the visual effects and community character being defined as an unmitigatable impact was dead on as there is nothing in the surrounding area that is as tall as nine or 10 stories, the height of an office building and hotel respectively. He said the view of the plan always offered looking down on the project is misleading and doesn’t allow people to get a real feel for how high the buildings will be or the homes that will line Del Mar Heights.
“The DEIR said there’s no important views in Carmel Valley,” Farinsky said, making a case for looking south at Carmel Mountain or back at the Del Mar Hills. “This project will block a lot of views.”
As far as fitting in with the community being an unmitigatable impact, Littler said she thinks the project will fit in just right.
“Anything is going to have a visual impact of some sort, even not doing anything is a visual impact,” Littler said. “This is a net positive for our community, not by a little bit but by a lot.”
Littler said it will also fit into the community by creating a new workforce.
“I’m very, very excited about the possibility of providing jobs in our damaged economy, a place where our kids will go to work as well as small business office space,” Littler said. “That’s really important to me.”
Kilroy had to submit project alternatives to be studied in the EIR which included:
1) No build
2) Developing the site for what it is entitled, 510,000 square feet of corporate office.
3) Commercial only — only the commercial elements would be constructed, including the 510,000 square feet of office space, 21,000 square feet of professional office and 270,000 square feet of retail.
Medical office/Senior Housing alternative — 425,000 square feet of medical office and 600 senior housing units
4) No retail alternative: 510,000 square feet of office, the 150-room hotel and 609 multi-family residences.
Farinksy said he wished Kilroy could have presented a mixed-use alternative that promoted less traffic by cutting out a lot of retail and trimmed some residential.
Littler also wasn’t excited about any of the alternatives—the entitled office buildings offering just “concrete, asphalt and steel from corner to corner” of El Camino Real with little or no traffic improvements or aesthetic improvements to the community.
“Do we want an office space corridor or a community Main Street with a gorgeous community meeting place?” Littler said. “If any of these alternatives are selected I would be just as full-throated in my opposition.”
She said the worst possible alternative was if the land stayed as it has for years, as a “fallow, dead spot” which she believes creates a negative impact of its own.
Fuchs said he doesn’t like that One Paseo will change the community plan and set its own size and height limitations, he feels it should be the other way around, that the community sets the parameters and developers design to fit. He worries about the consequences.
“If this goes through, it’s open season for developers to cram as much as possible into any open site,” said Fuchs. “There’s no way to stop it.”
Fuchs said that Kilroy has stated they’ve made numerous changes to their plans due to public input since it was first presented in 2009 but he does not believe it to be true. The only change he could find was a 30,000 square foot reduction in office space.
“That’s less than 2 percent of the project, it’s a totally meaningless gesture,” Fuchs said. “There needs to be meaningful input from the community, working closely with the community planning board.”
Little would disagree.
“The project undergoes continual changes and continues to evolve not only technically but with community input,” Little said. “There’s been multiple changes to the plan, it’s just that we can’t please everybody all the time. It doesn’t mean we’re not listening. A lot of comments and opinions have to be deciphered to find consistent trends to determine what people want to see to make it a success.”
Public comment will be accepted on the draft EIR until May 29 and it can be accessed on both One Paseo’s site, onepaseo.com and What Price Main Street’s site is whatpricemainstreet.com