Planning board votes down Via De La Valle housing development

A 35-home development is planned for this Via De La Valle slope.
(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning board unanimously denied a 35-home development proposed for a Via De La Valle slope at its Sept. 23 meeting. The 10-0, unanimous rejection was the planning board’s first in many years and possibly ever.

The board could not support the development proposed for the 22-acre site, next to the 19-home Santa Fe Downs development, across from the San Dieguito River Park and east of the Armstrong Garden Center due to traffic concerns on Via De La Valle.

“The current traffic arrangement is very unsafe,” said planning board member Steve Davison of the project’s proposed entry, carved into the hillside on the busy two-lane thoroughfare.

“I recognize this region needs more housing, but it shouldn’t be at any cost,” said board member Michelle Strauss. “We have to look at whether we have the infrastructure to support it and if it is the right location. And I just don’t think it is.”

With the planning board’s denial, the project will next move on to review by the San Diego Planning Commission for a required rezone, site development permit and coastal development permit.

The project proposes 35 residential units including a mixture of 13 detached single-family homes, 14 duplexes and eight flats with a community area and swimming pool. Four units will be reserved for affordable housing.

According to the city, the project is consistent with the community’s precise plan which allows one to two dwelling units per acre so the developer comes in under the maximum of what can be built by right.

Development of the sloped site will be achieved with some cuts and fills,

Architect James Alcon said the required retaining walls will be undulating, curved gravity walls, each cell with its own growth pocket so the foliage will grow, cover and cascade over the walls.

As a benefit to the community, the developer will line the half-mile frontage of the project with high carbon-producing California sycamore trees and add a bike lane and sidewalk for connectivity. A left-turn lane will be added for access going east on Via De La Valle as well as a deceleration lane for access from the west.

The planning board again questioned if there is enough room to add a turn-lane on the two-lane thoroughfare without the road being widened.

The widening of Via De La Valle to four lanes, a project in the works for over 18 years, is not part of the project. It is required mitigation for a previously approved project and is the obligation of Lennar Homes (formerly Black Mountain Ranch LLC) and has not been scheduled, according to Lesley Henegar, senior planner for the city.

“I don’t see the widening happening in my lifetime,” Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White said.

White said he did not have a problem with the cluster development but what bothered him was that the city’s engineering and traffic departments had not come up with a better solution for the egress and ingress. Once built, he believed there would be negative impacts for the community on Via De La Valle.

Board member Jeffrey Heden agreed that it would make an already congested roadway, with 2,100 average daily trips, more dangerous.

“It’s an unsafe project,” Heden said. “I think the road needs to be widened to make this a safe situation.”