Looking back on 2016 in Carmel Valley

Below is a recap of some of the events that impacted Carmel Valley and neighboring communities in 2016.

One Paseo Saga: The Final Chapter

In January, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board was split 5-5 on whether or not to approve the new vision for One Paseo.

“Having the benefit of working with a core focus group and community-wide workshops, Kilroy Realty strived to redesign the project to be more compatible and acceptable to the community,” said Chair Frisco White, encouraging a motion for approval. “Nevertheless One Paseo to some will never be accepted or desired, but we must understand that a development of some sort will be constructed on the site and that we must, at times, reach a decision that will be beneficial.”

Board members Anne Harvey, Jon Tedesco, Steve Davison, Debbie Lokanc and Chris Moore voted against the motion.

“I don’t want to succumb to the pressure to do something just because it’s taken a long time to get to this point. We pushed back once and we got a reduced project,” Davison said. “Maybe we should push back again.”

The board did vote unanimously to forward a letter to the city with 11 conditions for approval. Conditions included that the project not generate more than 14,000 average daily trips (ADTs), increase the affordable housing element to 20 percent, that Kilroy engage in serious dialogue for a public-private partnership to provide public transportation and that project mitigation requirements and community benefits are permit conditions.

The project was supposed to go before the San Diego Planning Commission in April but instead went straight to San Diego City Council due to four of the seven planning commissioners having conflicts of interest. Council President Sherri Lightner fought to explore all possible avenues that the commission could still hear the project as she said it was “unprecedented” that a project as highly contentious as One Paseo would not go through the planning commission process, especially in absence of clear direction from the planning board.

By June, after eight long years, numerous hearings filled with passionate opposition and a referendum effort that created a renewed developer focus on community outreach and scaled down plans, the One Paseo mixed-use project was approved in a 8-1 vote by San Diego City Council. Council members remarked that the feeling of this hearing was much different than what they saw in 2015, complimenting the compromises reached between developers and the community after they sent Kilroy Realty back to the drawing board to redesign.

“Obviously a lot has happened since this was heard over a year ago and I applaud what has been done regarding outreach,” Council member Todd Gloria said. “I think what has come out of what was really an unfortunate circumstance is a model that really every developer in every community can use to engage all corners of the community.”

Lightner remained the sole vote against the project. “The project is still more than twice the size and twice the number of ADTs (average daily trips) than the original entitlement and is the perfect example of spot zoning,” Lightner said. “Despite the strides made to mitigate the negative impacts One Paseo will have on the community, many significant un-mitigable impacts remain in the redesigned project. I still have concerns about the bulk and scale, about the lack of adequate on-site affordable housing, traffic, public safety, and the cumulative impacts it will have on the overall community character.”

A groundbreaking will be held for One Paseo on Jan. 25, 2017 and the first retail and restaurant tenants are scheduled to open mid-to-late 2018.

Also in development

A five-story, 127-room Hyatt Place Hotel is being proposed to replace Tio Leo’s Mexican Restaurant in Carmel Valley. Excel Hotel Group made an informational presentation to the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board in July.

The project will also be adjacent to another hotel in the works. Plans are underway for a mixed-use development called Costa Azul, which includes a six-story 112-suite hotel, three new restaurants and 82,000 square feet of office space. Developers Fred and Hunter Oliver also developed the neighboring Residence Inn.

The new Hyatt Place Hotel will feature coastal contemporary architecture with a rooftop deck with views that will stretch out over the lagoon.

While still “bewildered” about how the city process worked to allow doubling the square footage allowed in the Pacific Highlands Ranch community plan, the CV planning board approved Aperture Del Mar in November, a five-building, 630,000-square-foot office complex off Carmel Valley Road near SR-56 intended to be the home of a corporate headquarters or campus for a big tech-focused or life-science company.

Construction will not begin until a tenant is secured.

The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch held a grand opening celebration on Nov. 5 showcasing its many tenants. Many new places opened their doors in the Village, including Crudo, Westroot Tavern, Fresh Brothers Pizza, Fleet Feet and Moment Bicycles. In 2017, the Village will welcome Breakfast Republic and Wokou Noodles and Pours.

Solana Beach School District to see school improvements

In November, the Solana Beach School District passed a $105 million general obligation bond. Measure JJ will work to replace or upgrade outdated classrooms, science labs, libraries and school buildings; restore deteriorating roofs, plumbing and electrical systems; improve student safety and campus security; and provide students access to educational facilities, science and technology needed to prepare for high school, college and careers.

The district is also looking ahead at building its eighth school — the district has set aside a 10-acre parcel east of Golden Cypress Place in Pacific Highlands Ranch. The district had targeted to begin planning for that school in 2021 but due to projected enrollment growth, they are now looking to move it up to 2019.The district will have to purchase the land to be able to move forward.

Construction is set to begin in June 2017 on the complete remodel of Skyline School—students will attend Earl Warren’s interim campus until Skyline reopens in fall 2018. Solana Highlands will also be modernized over the summer of 2017, with most updates completed by fall 2018.

San Dieguito Union High School District

A superintendent’s departure, construction, raises, protests, its first ever charter petition, a fire at Oak Crest Middle School, lots of 3-2 board votes and an election that saw both incumbents re-elected—it was a busy year for San Dieguito Union High School District.

The district continued its Prop AA progress by celebrating its newest and 10th school with a grand opening and dedication of Pacific Trails Middle School on Feb. 26.

“Each and every Prop AA construction project to date has been on time and within budget. In less than three years, Prop AA has touched each and every campus,” then-Superintendent Rick Schmitt said. “When all of our Prop AA projects are completed, each school will be expanded to meet growing enrollment needs and will be modernized or finished.”

Finishing a school, for example, means Torrey Pines High, which is 42 years old and is still without a theater— construction is set to begin on the long-awaited performing arts center in 2017.Earl Warren Middle School will replace Pacific Trails as the district’s newest campus in fall 2017 when the complete renovation is finished.

 In April, Superintendent Rick Schmitt announced he was leaving the district after accepting a post in the San Ramon Valley Unified District. 

The district hired the search firm of Leadership Associates in May although they have yet to find a replacement—Eric Dill, associate superintendent of business services has been serving as interim superintendent.

Teachers, parents and community members put on a small protest before the SDUHSD meeting on July 14, calling out trustees Mo Muir and John Salazar for voting against the budget for the next school year and votes on Prop AA projects. The protests continued throughout the summer and fall before board meetings—even candidates in the election took part. There were five candidates to fill the two seats up for election and incumbents Beth Hergesheimer and Joyce Dalessandro were re-elected.

After certificated employees received a 12.5 percent raise at the end of 2015, the school board followed suit and approved the same raises for non-represented employee groups in January and classified employees in February. The net effect of the salary increases represents $1 million increase in cost to the district.

Trustees John Salazar and Mo Muir voted against all increases, expressing serious concerns about their affordability.

“I believe we can afford this raise,” said board member Amy Herman, who would be selected the new board president in December. “By giving them this increased compensation we’re showing them that we value their commitment and expertise and we will hopefully ensure stability to our district by retaining them.”

Then-Associate Superintendent Dill said that the district is in a “healthy and stable” position and is maintaining a healthy level of reserves, some of the highest in the district’s history.

In December, the board approved an interim budget with a $9.7 million deficit, which was represented as a “worst case scenario”. Dill said the district expects to find savings throughout the year. As an example, the district had been projecting a $2.4 million deficit for the 2015-16 school year in spring of 2016 but ended with a $4 million surplus in the fall. 

 Del Mar schools facilities needs

In 2016, the Del Mar Union School District continued to grapple with how to meet its long-term facilities needs, including creating modern learning studios at all schools, modernizing the district’s oldest campuses of Del Mar Hills, Del Mar Heights and Carmel Del Mar and replacing 25-year-old portables with permanent classroom buildings. According to Superintendent Holly McClurg, the district has “significant needs,” totaling around $126 million.

In January, the board gave direction to move forward in hiring a polling firm as they decided whether or not to go for a general obligation bond or school facilities improvement district (SFID) on the November ballot. The board was hesitant as their last polling, before its 2012 general obligation bond, informed them they would have a high guarantee to pass the bond but the bond failed, receiving 53 percent of the 55 percent approval requirement.

 Some parents expressed support for a potential November bond in March.

“Carmel Del Mar has been around a long time and it needs a little TLC,” said Carmel Del Mar parent Allison Healy-Poe. “I’ve seen directly the impact the bond San Dieguito Union High School District passed (Prop AA) has had on learning for those kids, the things like new science labs at Torrey Pines. It is a fantastic example of what improved learning environments have done to energize those kids about learning.”

Carmel Del Mar parent David Wojtkowski echoed Healy-Poe’s comments about the need to improve the aging campus and said that he is confident that “this time

In May, the board ultimately decided not to move forward with putting on a $135 million bond on the ballot after the survey showed just a bare majority believes that the district has a significant need for funding—the survey showed 57 percent said they would vote yes (36 percent definitely yes, 21 probably yes) with 10 percent of the undecided “leaning yes.”

“I’m worried that it looks very similar to what it was last time and without the public saying we have a need for facilities, I think it’s going to be a difficult task,” board member Scott Wooden said. “We have three schools that have significant needs but not the other five, so it’s going to be very hard to convince people.”

In November, the district saw neighboring Solana Beach School District’s bond pass with 65 percent approval. The board directed staff to begin the process of updating the district’s facilities master plan. The challenge lies ahead to craft a clear message to voters that there are needs at the district’s oldest schools and for all schools in the next 20 to 25 years.

 Have a heart

 All of the San Diego Police Department’s Northwestern Division’s patrol cars were equipped with life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs), thanks to a donation from San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner, District 5 Council member Mark Kersey and San Diego Fire-Rescue’s Project Heart Beat on Jan. 27.

“The police officers’ ability to use an AED could be the crucial difference that saves a patients’ life,” Lightner said.

Parks and recreation

•The Carmel Valley Park and Recreation Council approved the plans for the new Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park and Recreation Center in February, bringing the community one step closer to a park with the first bicycle pump track in San Diego and one of largest turf sports fields in the city.

“I’m truly impressed by the whole park,” said Marilee Pacelli, rec council chair after the council’s unanimous vote of support. “I actually think the recreation center building itself is going to be truly amazing.”

The park will have an “enormous” five-and-a-half-acre field (larger than the substantial 4.7-acre Ocean Air Recreation Center field), two full-size lit basketball courts, parkour course, skate plaza, dog parks and an inventive play garden for kids with unique structures for discovery and climbing.

The pump track is a trend that has taken off in the mountain states and in Northern California. Obstacles called “rollers” allow riders to gain speed—by “pumping” the obstacles, riders can develop basic bike handling skills and get a fun form of exercise. There will be a half-mile walking and jogging loop with exercise stations around the park perimeter.

The 17,000-square-foot recreation center was designed to tie into the civic buildings and residences of Pacific Highlands Ranch with its “soft-modern” style. The rec center will have a large gym striped for sports like basketball, volleyball and badminton, meeting rooms and class spaces, linked together by an enclosed patio.

Funding from Pardee Homes will be available for the two-year construction process to begin in July of 2017.

In late February, more than 60 volunteers came out to work on a valuable trail improvement in Del Mar Mesa, a collaboration between Pardee Homes and the San Diego Mountain Bike Association.

“This the first time that SDMBA has partnered with Pardee Homes, or any developer, on a trail project. With development happening in all parts of San Diego County, we hope we can continue to work with developers to create quality, sustainable natural trails for their communities,” said Susie Murphy, executive director of SDMBA. “Pardee Homes has been fully involved in the process of planning and building this trail. We applaud their efforts and thank them for being a leader in this area.”

The trail in Del Mar Mesa provides connectivity, linking areas separated by urban development with a multi use trail for the enjoyment of cyclists, hikers, trail runners, equestrians and neighbors.

Coast View Park opened in the Torrey Hills neighborhood in May. At a little over an acre in size the new public park sits in between Ocean Air Apartments and Torrey Gardens on East Ocean Air Drive. The playground includes swings, slides and climbing nets and a mix of sand and soft rubber mat surface. Beyond a grassy area, barbecue pits and picnic tables are clustered together toward the back of the park, with benches under a pretty yellow trellis.

A meandering pathway runs along the perimeter of the park with a HealthBeat fitness circuit. The outdoor exercise equipment along the path includes stations for plyometrics, pull-ups and dips and stretching.

 In July, San Diego City Council approved a new 28-year lease for Surf Cup Sports on the polo field property. Surf has said there will not be an intensification of use and committed to complete a major restoration and improvements to the Coast to Crest Trail along the property as well as add a new equestrian arena and staging area. Surf also agreed to employ professional traffic management staff, change the on-property traffic flow and parking plan to alleviate local street traffic and adhere to the strict number of events allowed per year.

Council President Sherri Lightner cast the sole dissenting vote.

“Per the original great deed it was clear to me that this land was intended to be open space,” Lightner said.

 Rio Olympians

Torrey Pines High School was well represented in the Rio Olympics.

Alum and field hockey coach Jessica “JJ” Javelet, was a standout competing on the first ever women’s Olympic rugby team. Kerry Simmonds, a Torrey Pines High grad, won gold as part of the dominant women’s eight rowing team—the medal was an extension of a 10-year winning streak.

“Crossing the finish line, I remember just an overwhelming amount of emotion. Pure joy and relief all came to the surface. I am pretty certain I yelled or shrieked. I was so very happy,” Simmonds said. “And to be able to share that moment with the eight other women in the boat was incredible. Lots of tears were shed.”

Planning board loses longtime members

The Carmel Valley planning board said goodbye to three dedicated board members on April 27 with the departure of Chris Moore, Anne Harvey and Victor Manoushakian.

Harvey, a board member for 20 years, is “as much of a fixture in this community as the native plants in the open space she fought so hard to protect over the years,” going as far as “standing in front of bulldozers” on Carmel Mountain. Manoushakian had been on the board for nearly as long as Harvey and has taken care of the business interests in the community. He has been the owner of Highlands Jewelers in Piazza Carmel for 27 years and said it was a “beautiful” honor to have served on the board. Moore has been on the board since 2011, representing the concerns of his neighbors and bringing environmental expertise.

 Don’t forget your re-usable bag!

On July 19, San Diego City Council approved a city-wide ban on plastic bags. With the action, San Diego became the 150th jurisdiction in the state to ban plastic checkout bags. While some people said to wait until November when a statewide plastic bag ban initiative was on the ballot with Proposition 67, Council President Sherri Lightner said the city had waited long enough — she wished they had been the first jurisdiction in California to ban plastic bags.

“I strongly believe that now is the time to demonstrate local leadership on this issue and make a clear statement that we value our environment and believe that this sustainable action is the right thing to do to protect it,” Lightner said.

San Diego uses 700 million plastic single-use bags a year and only 3 percent of those are recycled. Proposition 67 passed in November, upholding the state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 and the statewide ban went into effect immediately.

Heartfelt goodbyes

Former Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) board member Doug Perkins passed away on May 6. Perkins officially resigned the DMUSD board on Jan. 5, 2015 to serve on the San Diego County Board of Education, which he was elected to in November 2014. He suffered a stroke in February 2015 and was never able to join the board.“He was not only a fantastic board member but he was a dear friend to all of us,” DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg said. “He loved, loved our district and he loved the children here…He had courage and passion like none I’ve seen before.”

Marvin Gerst, an avid defender of San Diego’s open space and former member of the Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Board, passed away on May 11 after a long fight with Parkinson’s disease. As Gerst played an important role in the establishment of the CVREP Trail, an effort is building to rename it the Marvin Gerst Trail.

A Torrey Pines graduate, 21-year-old Nicolas Leslie was killed in the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, France, when a man drove a truck into a Bastille Day celebration and killed 84 people. Leslie, a UC Berkeley student, was studying abroad in France.

“He was just a beautiful kid. He was an angel,” said his uncle Alberto Leslie.

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