By Kristina Houck
Carmel Valley could eventually have more affordable housing options.
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board heard plans June 26 to redesign a previously approved residential project on the nearly 3.5-acre site off Village Center Loop Road in Pacific Highlands Ranch. While the plans have not yet been submitted to the city, developers wanted to begin working with the planning board early in the process.
“We have not submitted the project yet,” said Randi Coopersmith, senior principal planner with Latitude 33, a San Diego-based civil engineering and land planning firm. “They [KB Home] want to get feedback from staff and your board … before we finalize the design and even make an application.”
The previously approved two-, three- and four-story project featured 75 residential units and an office space. The proposed three-story project now features 68 larger units, including 57 market rate townhomes and 11 affordable units also for sale.
With feedback from Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White and Vice Chair Manjeet Ranu, Coopersmith said 38 percent of the units would be four-bedroom townhomes.
“Thank you to KB Home for introducing a product that’s not only needed in Pacific Highlands Ranch and Carmel Valley, but throughout the entire region,” Ranu said. “As we move away from single-family housing as the dominant new housing product, while we are still a growing region, the four-bedroom townhome is a big deal. It’s really important to have that in Pacific Highlands Ranch. It allows families the opportunity to benefit from homeownership and be a part of contributing to the diversity of our community, because it’s just unaffordable for most families.”
The proposed community features walkways, sidewalks and a pocket park in the center of the site.
Coopersmith presented both a Santa Barbara-style design, as well as a more contemporary design for the project. The board had mixed opinions on which design better fit the community. Some board members also voiced concerns about the 26-foot wide alleys that are prominently featured throughout the project design as areas for children to play.
“I’m still bothered by the alleys,” White said. “They are very long.”
Ranu, however, noted his children safely play in “an alley-loaded” neighborhood in Pacific Highlands Ranch.
“Every single street [in LaTerra at the Village] is walkable,” Ranu said. “It’s not like some of the older, attached products in Carmel Valley, which are basically buildings drafted in a sea of parking. This is a real neighborhood.”
Several neighbors from Airoso, another community on Village Center Loop Road, argued against the new design. They claimed that the original project was approved with the condition that the homes facing the street would be limited to two stories.
“I thought there was a commitment and a consensus at the previous meeting with the board to limit those to two stories on the street,” said Chris Larkin, who lives in the Airoso community.
“If the Carmel Valley Planning Board votes for this, with three stories on the Village Center Drive, it will be the ultimate betrayal,” added Karen Dubey, another Airoso resident. “It was the only thing you guys gave to us after hundreds and hundreds of hours that we spent trying to make this what it was supposed to be. … This is not what was supposed to be here. This is the last straw. It really shows me that there is almost no purpose for anybody to come to the planning board, for the planning board even to exist.”
White, who vaguely recalled the condition in question, asked Latitude 33 to look into whether the previously approved plan included that commitment to the community.
“We appreciate your concerns,” Coopersmith said. “We’re here to hear it.”
Latitude 33 appeared before the board prior to submitting a substantial conformance review application to the city. The firm plans to come before the board again in the near future.