While attendees applauded plans for a major Carmel Valley commercial development project, concerns about traffic remain. The plan was described at an April 26 regional issues subcommittee meeting for the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.
The subcommittee met with representatives from Kilroy Realty to discuss plans for one of the last developable lots in Carmel Valley — the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.
Kilroy's plan is for a mixed-use center with 836,000 square feet of commercial space, which includes approximately 515,000 square feet of corporate space and 30,000 square feet of small professional office space. It calls for a 10-story office building. The project, which will sit on top of underground parking, will also include a 150-room hotel and 608 residential units.
The vision for the retail section includes shops, a movie theater and a high-end grocery store, said Robert Little, Kilroy's vice president of commercial development.
"We are endeavoring to create a special place for Carmel Valley," Little said. "It takes the right balance of great planning along with an aggregate of proper uses and density to make a place vibrant."
The center will also add two signalized traffic lights on Del Mar Heights Road and two more non-signalized right-turn only driveways on El Camino Real.
The land is currently zoned for corporate offices and will require a zoning change as well as an amendment to the Carmel Valley community plan. Kilroy is only entitled to build 510,000 square feet.
"Basically you are entitled to those two office buildings spread out," said Anne Harvey, subcommittee co-chair. "We need to weigh whether it's worth it to add the extra ... Our job is to defend the community plan."
Kilroy is in its second cycle of comments from the city planning department, but has not addressed architecture and elevations yet. The architecture firm hired to design the project, Elkus Manfredi Architects, has a resume that includes the design of Downtown Disney in Anaheim and The Grove in Los Angeles.
Howard Elkus, the firm co-founder and principal architect in town from Boston, told the planning board that the goal is to create a place that becomes "the heart of the community."
Artist renderings show shoppers walking between stores under flowering trellises and people enjoying meals at outdoor cafes in an open, green plaza.
"We want to create not only a heart here but a sense of a Main Street," Elkus said.
Little said the project is currently organized into quadrants so similar uses would be close to one another — for example, the two office buildings would be on the side of the lot close to the Neurocrine campus and the residential units closer to the neighboring homes.
Reaction to the project was mixed.
"To me this is exactly what should be in this kind of place," said neighbor Ken Farinsky. He said he would like to see an "urban core" that he can walk to with his family.
"I like it," said board member Nancy Novak. "But the volume of traffic is my concern. I think this is going to generate a lot of traffic that has the potential to reduce the quality of life."
Neighbor Robert Fuchs said the portrayal of a Main Street and central gathering space admittedly "pulls at his heartstrings" but he is troubled by the "traffic gridlock" the project might generate.
"Personally, I don't want to feel like a prisoner in my neighborhood because I can't get in or out," Fuchs said.
Chair Frisco White brought up the two biggest issues for any project in the area — the bulk and scale and whether it meets the community character. White was most concerned about the 10-story office building.
Little said there is precedence in the community for tall office buildings, but White noted that they have to consider where that precedence is located — the community's tallest office structures are not toward the center of Carmel Valley but on Valley Centre Drive, close to the freeway.
Little said that in their plans they have tried to locate the tallest buildings on the lowest part of the site and that they would continue to look at alternative solutions and find a reasonable balance.