One Paseo, the Community Plan and smart growth

In monitoring community reaction to the One Paseo proposal, a common theme often emerges: that Kilroy should abide by the Carmel Valley Community Plan and underlying zoning regulations for the property. As a city planner, I’ve had the opportunity to analyze and update several community plans and zoning ordinances. I have also taken the time to review the Carmel Valley Community Plan myself. Today I provide an overview on community plans and zoning, offer historical context to the Carmel Valley Community Plan, and discuss innovative planning concepts such as smart growth and neotraditional planning.

Generally, a community plan is a long-range policy document that guides the overall development patterns for a community. It talks about community values, goals and objectives; land uses; and development controls. A community plan typically has a shelf life of around 15-20 years for the simple reason that, despite our best efforts to read the “community crystal ball,” things get built and conditions change. The plan needs to be monitored, revisited and readjusted over time to respond to current conditions, regional influences and updated planning paradigms. A community plan is never intended to be a fixed, static document.

The 1975 Community Plan for Carmel Valley is 38 years old, which is about 20 years past its expiration date. Yet it still contains meaningful policies and remains the guiding “contract” by which all development shall be judged. It was created at a time when Euclidian zoning was the model for how communities were planned and developed. At its core, Euclidian zoning separates all land uses (commercial, residential, institutional, etc.) into distinct zones. We see evidence of that planning concept in Carmel Valley where residents have to jump in their cars to access goods and services located in separate and distinct commercial areas.

Since the 1990s, new land use planning paradigms have taken hold for mixed-use, transit-oriented development, going by names like neotraditional planning, new urbanism, and smart growth. These principles offer more compact land use solutions to help avoid urban sprawl into outlying areas. Fundamentally, three key components characterize the concept of smart growth: a mix of land uses (e.g. commercial and residential uses in one development area), increased densities and transit options. Successful local examples of smart growth principles can be found in Little Italy, La Jolla and downtown Encinitas.

So what does all this mean to One Paseo? Because the Carmel Valley Community Plan is a general policy statement document, the plan can be interpreted to support arguments either for or against this project. I found two notable goals from our Community Plan to illustrate my point that relate directly to the One Paseo proposal: the need for a centrally located “town center” and a community transit system connecting the town center with individual neighborhoods. Objectives for the Community Plan state that the town center should meet the “social, cultural, and recreational needs of the community as well as the shopping function.” It goes on to say that “design which emphasizes vertical development as well as mixed uses is desirable and should be encouraged.” Regarding transit, Community Plan objectives state that “development of an interior transportation system for the town center, linkages from the town center to the residential areas, and the provision for a transit station site are necessary.”

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