By Karen Billing
More than 300 people showed up to the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board meeting on May 24 as the board members discussed the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the One Paseo project. The meeting was held at Carmel Valley Middle School as a large crowd was anticipated and a large crowd it was, with people holding signs and sporting project opponent “Save Carmel Valley” stickers and project proponent “I Support Main Street” pins.
Comments on the DEIR were due May 29 and the board’s comments would include what the board contends are inaccuracies in the areas of the environmental setting, project description, land use, transportation/circulation/parking, community character and visual effect and the project alternatives.
“I hope that this process helps us understand the concerns about the project,” said Robert Little, Kilroy vice president of development.
He said while the DEIR is a technical and disclosure document, it does not talk about the benefits of the project which he believes are many, including providing a heart to the community and a “Main Street.”
The biggest concerns voiced were surrounding the community character and the unmitigated traffic impacts.
“There’s no conceivable way to mitigate all of the traffic impacts if this is built at the size and scale that it is,” planning board member Chris Moore said.
The board and some audience members wondered why the DEIR didn’t include a scaled down alternative that could achieve the project objectives without the same negative impacts.
“I don’t know why it was not included,” said CV planning board chair Frisco White and noted it would be a question they asked in their comments.
The board had concerns that the DEIR did not accurately describe the surrounding neighborhood that One Paseo is moving into, leaving out one single-family detached neighborhood and describing the area as having a 10-story building nearby, but board member Anne Harvey said that building is actually next to Interstate-5.
“It was described in a way that made it less contrasting, often capturing a broader area,” vice chair Manjeet Ranu said. “The bulk and scale is radically different than anything in Carmel Valley and the DEIR really glosses over that.”
The visual effect section also does not consider the negative impact of widening the roads around One Paseo, Ranu said, which would result in a Mira Mesa Boulevard-type character.
The loss of trees is also not discussed, regional issues co-chair Jan Fuchs pointed out, about 72 of them on Del Mar Heights Road.
The market retail study was also considered inadequate by the board, not looking at the negative impacts to existing and planned retail, such as Pacific Highlands Ranch Village Center. One Paseo could potentially cause it and other retail not to be successful, White said.
“PHR already has a Village Center, it just hasn’t had the chance yet,” said board member Allen Kashani. “I’d hate to see this project take away the opportunity to have a grocery store or a theater in PHR.”
Moore also said that there needs to be better analysis that it is a walkable project as stated, as he doesn’t seem many linkages for people to get to the project easily and it’s likely a place most people will need to drive to.
“I don’t think I’m going to look at a 10-story building and say ‘I’m going up to the second floor and have coffee’,” said board member Debbie Lokanc. “I can’t see the walkability.”
She said it didn’t make sense to have all the shops and eateries hidden in the middle of the project — they should be drawing people in to walk around.
The board also took issue with the project having enough meaningful input from community members in its development.
“The DEIR goes into great lengths about how many meetings and barbecues were had,” Ranu said. “It’s not meaningful if the project only changed 2 percent in that time. Marketing events didn’t tell people what the likely impact will be.”
When White asked for opponents and proponents to stand up so he could gauge how they were split, the majority of people in attendance were against the project.
While opponent Ken Farinksy said the DEIR was so flawed that it should be “redone and re-circulated for another 60 days,” project proponent Andrew Reece said he was impressed with amount of work that went into the document.
“It looks like a good understanding of mixed-use,” Reece said. “I think it demonstrates good knowledge of the neighborhood context and character.”
Besides One Paseo’s size, “gridlocked traffic” and parking were other issues that came up during public input.
“I’m concerned about parking, that it will be a Del Mar Plaza scenario where it takes as long to find a parking space as it does to walk around the area,” said Fred Baron, a 25-year Carmel Valley resident.
Resident Steve Burton, who is also the president of Ace Parking, provided a counterpoint. He believes that One Paseo’s shared parking program will actually be a big help for the project and especially for Carmel Valley, which faces a lot of parking challenges. All of the office space parking will be able to be used on weekends and after hours. One Paseo, in total, will have 4,089 spaces.
The next step in the process is for the city and the applicant to respond to all the comments on the DEIR and it’s not known how long that will take. The final EIR will then be prepared and a hearing at the planning commission can be scheduled a minimum of 14 days afterward. The Carmel Valley planning board will see the project again for a recommendation before it goes to the planning commission.
After hearing the project, the planning commission has 60 days to make a recommendation to City Council. The council will then hold a public hearing to approve, conditionally approve or deny the application at the hearing.