By Joe Tash
A proposal for a pedestrian-oriented town center in the Pacific Highlands Ranch community east of Carmel Valley has drawn fire from residents who say the plan has strayed from the original, voter-approved vision for the master-planned development.
Pardee Homes, which owns most of the 27-acre site where the town center is planned, wants to build a mixed-use project including 294 residential units, 195,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet of office space. The project — which includes a 3-acre site for a future branch library — is proposed for a vacant piece of land at the northeast corner of Carmel Valley Road and Del Mar Heights Road.
The project would include a pedestrian mall lined by shops and restaurants, a village square, a movie theater, and a parking garage with four stories above ground and two below ground. The parking structure would be concealed by commercial and residential buildings on all sides.
Adjacent to Carmel Valley Road would be a commercial building and parking lot where a supermarket could be located.
Both the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board and the San Diego Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan, but some residents said Pardee's proposal doesn't do enough to discourage automobile traffic and encourage nearby residents to access the town center on foot.
Dean Dubey, a Pacific Highlands Ranch resident and member of the planning board, appealed the Planning Commission's approval of the project. The appeal will be considered by the San Diego City Council on Jan. 26.
Dubey said he and other residents bought their homes with the expectation that the town center would be built, and they are excited to see it happen. But he and others don't believe the proposed plan matches the original vision for the town center. San Diego voters approved it in 1998 as part of Proposition M, which allowed the creation of the master-planned community of Pacific Highlands Ranch.
"They have lost really the main goal of making this a walkable village," said Dubey.
Supporters of the village plan, however, said it will indeed create a lively community gathering place that has been missing from Pacific Highlands Ranch.
"The (village) plan is completely consistent with the Pacific Highlands Ranch subarea plan and that's something were proud of," said Jimmy Ayala, director of community development with Pardee Homes.
Even if the council denies the appeal and allows the village project to go forward, it still faces hurdles before it can be completed.
Under Prop. M, the Pacific Highlands Ranch development can't be built out until two missing connectors from Interstate 5
to state Route 56 are completed.
The California Department of Transportation is working on the connector project, but no firm date for their construction has been established.