The last development of the slopes along Via de la Valle has been in the planning process for over 10 years. The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board reviewed the latest version of the plans at its April 26 board meeting, hearing from architect James Alcorn about a vision for 32 new residences on the fairly steep sloped 22-acre site next to the Santa Fe Downs development. The lot is east of the Armstrong Garden Center, across from the San Dieguito River Park.
“We are enthusiastic about this new iteration and before we get consultants engaged again we wanted to run it by the board to get input,” Alcorn said.
Developer Hamid Bagheri and his team are preparing to submit their latest plans to the city, veering from previous plans that had a lot of retaining walls along Via de la Valle and a different configuration of homes within the development. The current scheme anticipates development of 4.1 acres of the 22-acre site with 18 attached townhomes and 14 single family homes. Alcorn said he hopes to marry the homes to the grade, building into the hills and keeping the buildings off the ravines.
Alcorn said they will develop 18 percent of the 25 percent slope, cutting the least amount of soil to make it all work, approximately 25,000 cubic yards. The interior road will go through the least steep areas.
Alcorn’s “architect’s dream” is to plant a number of trees along the road and densely throughout the project, so people on the road aren’t really aware of what’s there.
“The landscape plan is as important as the buildings themselves,” Alcorn said.
The board had questions about access to the site—those that live in Santa Fe Downs at times have to turn right on Via de la Valle and make a U-turn at San Andres in order to go east.
“Santa Fe Downs is practically impossible to get in and out,” said one resident.
Alcorn said they are requesting a traffic signal from the city for their project although a similar request for Santa Fe Downs was not approved.
The widening of Via de la Valle is expected to begin this summer, resulting in an expanded four lane road from San Andres to El Camino Real. A sidewalk will be included in front of the project as part of the widening.
The majority of the planning board supported the concept of the physical land plan with some concerns about the safety of building on the slopes and the access issue.
Vice Chair Barry Schultz said he would not be supporting the project.
“As I drive down that street I keep asking myself ‘who would build there?’” Schultz said.
Schultz said during his time on the San Diego Planning Commission he only had one regret— approving the condo project on the hillside across from Fashion Valley mall. He said he sees a lot of similarities with this project and he would not like to make the same mistake twice.
Alcorn said, “The devil is in the details” and they will come before the board as they work through the review process with the city and refine the latest plans. The development will require a specific plan amendment and a rezone—the site’s zoning allows for residential uses but at a lower density.