‘We are at our wits’ end’: Pacific Highlands Ranch residents urge mayor to finish Village Loop

Village Center Loop road currently dead-ends past the Airoso development.
(Karen Billing)

Village Center Loop Road is actually not a loop at all. The road currently dead ends past the high school and the middle school, townhomes and Trader Joe’s and the brand new park and popular pump track.

The road has long been considered an important circulation element that would bring the Pacific Highlands Ranch community together. When connected, it would link back to Carmel Valley Road but there is currently no idea as to when that might happen.

The remaining 700-foot segment of road falls within the 21 acres of private property owned by the Lin family and the owners currently have no plans to develop the property. The money to build the road is and has been available in community funds. Pardee Homes has agreed to build the road with facilities benefit assessment money if an agreement can be reached with the Lin family. The city would need to acquire the right of way to build the road ahead of the family’s development of the property, however, negotiations have reached a stalemate.

In an October issue of this newspaper, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board printed an open letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Lin and his attorney Robert Kolodny. The board has been “urging and pleading” for years for the completion of Village Center Loop Road, which they believe to be a vital transportation necessity that would benefit the entire community.

“We are not writing this letter to publicly cast blame on any one party as causing this impasse. We are writing this letter to urge that both parties work through their differences and go back to the negotiation table,” the letter stated. “The future of the livability of the PHR community is in your hands.”

Last year the board also allocated $1 million in facilities benefit assessment funding for the city to conduct a traffic study to find short-term and long-term traffic solutions for Pacific Highlands Ranch and the whole of Carmel Valley—they are still waiting for the city to get started.

City Council Pro Tem Barbara Bry, who represents District 1, said she has been doing her part to try and get the loop closed.

“The one issue I consistently heard from Pacific Highlands Ranch when I first ran for city council was ‘Complete the Loop Road!’,” said Bry, who was elected in 2016. “Within months of taking office, I met with representatives from the Lin Family Trust and quickly got them together with representatives from the city attorney’s office and relevant city departments. I was subsequently informed that the mayor, not the city council, has the authority to negotiate contracts on behalf of the city. This past March, the mayor communicated to the Lin Family Trust that ‘the city is not proceeding with the project at this time.’”

“I continue to ask the mayor to resume talks with the Lin Family Trust to build the Village Loop Road to no avail,” said Bry, who is running for mayor in 2020.

Mayor Faulconer did not respond to requests for comment. The attorney for the Lin family also did not respond to a request for comment.

“This is one of the single biggest impact projects in our area. It is frustrating to residents that our elected officials in the mayor’s office have chosen to walk away from this land acquisition and road construction,” said Bruce Cameron, representing Pacific Highlands Ranch North. “We are at our wits’ end and at the mercy of the city to finish this critical infrastructure that was central to our community plan.”

The community of Pacific Highlands Ranch has grown up around the road. The street is home to Canyon Crest Academy, the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch mixed-use center, new multi-family housing developments, the new Pacific Highlands Ranch Park and Recreation Center, and Pacific Trails Middle School. A future library is set to open off the road in 2022.

Development only continues to boom in Pacific Highlands Ranch North where Pardee is scheduled to build 464 homes over the next two years. In East Pacific Highlands Ranch, Del Mar Union School District will build its ninth school on Solterra Vista Parkway and construction is just beginning on Corallina, which will feature vertical mixed-use with 116 residential flats above retail along Village Way.

Traffic is snarled on Carmel Valley Road in the mornings and afternoons as people attempt to travel to and from work or to one of the seven local schools in the immediate area. Carmel Valley Road has also become a cut-through option for those coming from the east who are looking to avoid the backed-up SR-56.

The completion of Village Center Loop Road will serve as a primary connector for the community, said Juniper Sykes, representing the Sierra Highlands neighborhood.

“Not having the loop completed has exacerbated already crippling traffic bottlenecks in the morning for thousands of commuters,” Sykes said. “It’s gotten very bad and disastrously unsafe.”

Araballa resident Karen Dubey said the Carmel Valley Road traffic jam causes a back-up into her community every morning from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Traffic backed-up to get out onto Pacific Highlands Ranch parkway in the morning.
(Dean Dubey)

“It is hard for residents to pull out to get to work and school and has encouraged aggressive and illegal turning right out of the middle lane of Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway onto Carmel Valley Road,” Dubey said. “This has resulted in some near misses of pedestrians including one of my neighbors. Anything that loosens up traffic on Carmel Valley Road will be helpful.”

The rush hour cut-through traffic of those looking to avoid the clogged Carmel Valley Road has gotten so bad that the community of Portico was forced to put up temporary barricades to keep cars from cutting through and speeding down their small alleyways.

“The completion of the Village Loop is essential to help alleviate this traffic. The mayor’s office needs to step up and get involved to fix this,” said Cheryl Hsu of Portico. “It is both ridiculous and disappointing that’s such a critical thoroughfare has not been prioritized by his office.”

Hsu’s disappointment was echoed by Sykes, who said the road has always been in the city’s plans for the community and she doesn’t understand why the mayor has chosen not to act on multiple requests from residents, the planning board and their local city council representative.

“This road needs to be completed for the safety and efficiency of the whole community,” Sykes said.