By Robert Scott
When assessing the One Paseo concept, a fundamental question I ask is, “How much is too much?” On the flip side, “at what point will scaling the project back make it functionally incapable of desired Main Street objectives?” Establishing appropriate objective parameters for the use mix, densities, floor area ratio (or FAR), building heights, and number of stories will help achieve a project of appropriate size and scale for a true community town center while complementing an established community character.
Let’s face it; the retail, restaurant, entertainment, and cultural uses are the drivers to create a vibrant town center core for Carmel Valley. For this project to work, we will need enough density and “critical mass” to create the vitality and energy to achieve the One Paseo “Main Street” vision. In this context, “critical mass” is a term I use to describe the amount of commercial square-footage devoted to retail, restaurant, and entertainment uses needed to achieve the vitality of a village center commercial core.
My research suggests that the One Paseo project will need to provide 200,000-250,000 s.f. of retail, restaurant, entertainment, and cultural use space in order to reach the critical mass necessary to realize a community hub and centerpiece. The office and residential components are complementary uses that help support the commercial retail uses but do provide direct benefit to the larger community.
The office and residential components of this project could be scaled back to be more in keeping with surrounding community character. The 8-story buildings as currently proposed are incongruent with the established character of office development in the area. I have walked El Camino Real, High Bluff Drive, and Kilroy’s campus along SR56 to survey the building heights and number of stories of all commercial office buildings. Except for the Marriott and US Bank buildings, the “typical” Carmel Valley office building averages 4-6 stories in size.
By allowing the size and densities of the commercial retail component, and scaling back the office and residential components to match surrounding office building development, I believe the project can be “right-sized.” I have heard project opponents suggest scaling back the retail commercial component to 70,000 square-feet. At that point, the project will likely appear more like an extension of Del Mar Highlands where there are more shops but no real zest, no town center core. Just more traffic without the vitality.
I support the concept of a mixed-use One Paseo project as an opportunity to fulfill our Community Plan’s vision for a true town center and provide exceptional benefits for our community. I also believe the project should be revised and scaled back to find a better balance point. Using objective criteria to regulate the project size and scale would help keep the project within acceptable community thresholds while achieving the vitality of a true town center for our community.
Robert Scott, AICP, LEED AP is a land use planner, LEED for Homes Green Rater, and 10-year Carmel Valley resident. Scott has written several letters to the editor pertaining to the One Paseo project. He can be reached at (858) 480-1098 or by visiting: www.rjsplanning.com