Thriving Carmel Valley turns 30 this year: Residents remember the beginning

By Karen Billing

Carmel Valley will turn the ripe old age of 30 in 2013.

In 1983, Pardee Homes was issued the first building permits for a place called North City West, an area mostly populated by farmland that would eventually be known as Carmel Valley.

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The Carmel that appears in the community’s name and is extremely popular on street names (Carmel Mountain, Carmel Creek, Carmel Canyon, Carmel Country, Carmel Vista, Carmel Center, ect.) is a nod to the Carmelite Sisters of Mercy, who ran a dairy farm and monastery in the area.

Carmel Valley’s master plan commissioned in 1974 attempted to reduce sprawl by confining development to the mesa tops and leaving the canyons untouched. Open space preservation versus high-density development is still a challenge for local planners today as they aim to stay true to the community’s original vision.

Here are some remembrances of Carmel Valley’s earliest years from some longtime residents:

Anne Harvey

In 1980 I got a desperate call from the registrar of voters asking me to serve at a new precinct because I was one of only two registered Democrats in Carmel Valley. The polling place was the widow MacKenzie’s yellow house at the fork of Carmel Valley and Black Mountain Roads.  There were eggs for sale stacked at one end of the room and someone brought honey to exchange.  I noticed in the big ledger that my neighbor Josie, who lived on Del Mar Mesa at the corner of Hollywood and Vine with her retired K-9 Corps Dobermans, had first voted in 1936, presumably for FDR. The voters lingered to catch up on each other’s stories, including their newfound admiration for one of the candidates, “that fellow from Iowa” John Anderson, and no one objected because it was all so good natured.

John Dean

In the early 1980’s there were probably only a little over 100 people who lived in this area east of I-5.

They were mostly farmers, horse people, some UCSD students and a handful of others who didn’t want you to know who they were or what they did.

The only business here at the time was the Shell gas station on Carmel Valley Road.  There was a single dirt road that ran south of the Shell station to Arroyo Sorrento Road where Anne Harvey, myself and a few others lived. We both still live on that road.  I remember my wife saying some of her friends wouldn’t visit because the road was so bad and I thought to myself that’s one of the reasons we live out here.

If you liked rolling hills and sagebrush we had plenty of both, we would see deer, coyotes and bobcats on a regular basis.  I still have a photo of a mountain lion walking past my home in the middle of the day.

At one point I saw a notice in the paper that a new city was going to being planned here and San Diego was holding a meeting for community volunteers to start a Community Planning Board to add input. I went to that meeting and walked out being elected as the first chairperson. Be careful what you volunteer for.

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