By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch will have a starring role in the Nov. 2 city-wide election with Proposition C on the ballot to untie the development of Pacific Highlands Ranch from the completion of the Interstate 5-Highway 56 interchange project. The proposition seeks to amend Prop M passed in 1998, which limited development in PHR to 1,900 dwelling units until the connections were made between 56-West and 5-North and 5-South and 56-East. Pacific Highlands Ranch is nearing 1,900 units, but the completion of the 5-56 project isn't slated to occur before 2020. PHR is lacking in parks, a library, trails and recreation facilities and Prop C intends to fix what has become an "unintended planning mistake," said District 1 Councilmember Sherri Lightner.
"Prop C permits the full development of Pacific Highlands Ranch into the smart growth, pedestrian-friendly, diverse neighborhood it was intended to be, before the reality of freeway construction delays and design changes interfered," said Lightner. "Prop C allows the completion of community parks, the open space and trail system, schools, stores, offices, a recreation center, bike and pedestrian trails for Pacific Highlands Ranch. It requires developers, not taxpayers, to pay for these facilities and requires city approval of a phasing plan to ensure facilities are timely constructed. "
The proposition has gained the support and endorsement of surrounding planning groups, the Endangered Habitats League, The Friends of the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and the San Diego Citywide Community Planners Committee. The proposition was originated by the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board subcommittee headed up by board member Scott Tillson and Manjeet Ranu, board member and Pacific Highlands Ranch resident. There are currently no parks and children play on their community streets. A large empty lot sits on Carmel Valley Road and Village Center Loop Road, the site of an approved mixed-use retail and residential center that has not been built.
Tillson said the community was meant to be self-sufficient but some 5,000 residents are without even a grocery store to pick up basics.
"The community members have to travel outside of their community for these things. It's inconvenient for them but also has an impact on Carmel Valley," Tillson said.
Residents currently have Canyon Crest Academy, Cathedral Catholic High School and Sycamore Ridge School within their boundaries, although the residents who bought into the neighborhood are expecting a Solana Beach School District site as well as a new San Dieguito Union High School District middle school.
"(Prop C) takes the timing and phasing restrictions put into Prop M and shifts it to City Council," Tillson said. "They will make the determination through its processes when and in what order the community is built, same as any community in San Diego."
He said they have been successful in implementing phasing restrictions into Prop C that will halt home building permits if amenities like parks have not been achieved for the residents.
A group called San Diegans for Responsible Neighborhood Planning developed earlier in the year to promote Prop C city-wide and they approached Pardee Homes to help with the cost of the campaign outreach. While Pardee's involvement has helped, the group really doesn't have the funds to be out doing grassroots campaigning all over the city, Tillson said.
"We rely a great deal on the voters reading the ballot and recognizing that this is no cost to taxpayers and is about allowing the community of Pacific Highlands Ranch to develop the way voters approved in 1998," Tillson said.
While no official opposition statement was filed to the City Clerk and none appears on the ballot, there are some residents who plan to vote "no" on Nov. 2, among them Pacific Highlands Ranch resident Karen Dubey.
"Prop C is a misleading attempt by Pardee Homes to build more homes and businesses, and in turn earn millions in profit. Quite the opposite that the campaign funded by Pardee Homes states, the proposition cannot control when the Solana Beach School District will build an elementary school, or when the City of San Diego will build a park that PHR has already paid for," Dubey stated. "Prop C is flawed as written, without any community -friendly controls in place to make sure that Carmel Valley does not become horribly congested with traffic and crime. Because of this there are many people in PHR that have told me they are afraid they will have to move away if Prop C passes."
Another resident, Scott Curry, said he hopes that Prop C isn't being used as a conduit for building more homes and that it will be used to improve the lives of residents that have lived in PHR for the last five or more years.
"It's time for our empty trash-collecting brown lots to be made into green park space," Curry said. "This community does not need more homes built here on empty promises."