2011 in Carmel Valley: A year in review

By Karen Billing

Here’s a look back at some of the stories that had Carmel Valley buzzing in 2011:

Del Mar Union School District: new offices, new lunches

The district moved its headquarters from 9th Street in Del Mar to its new Torrey Hills office building in July, and a maintenance and operations facility was set up in Sorrento Valley.

District Superintendent Jim Peabody joked that they don’t miss the mold, mildew, lead paint and cold water of their old digs.

“We’re very happy here. It’s great to be in a nice, professional place to do business,” Peabody said.

New fences went up to make the schools safer and parents became fed up with what they deemed were unhealthy school lunches. A lunch committee took on an aggressive schedule: a survey in February, tastings in March, a contract signed by May and the district was able to get a new private provider, Choicelunch, serving up healthy fare by the first day of school in August.

“We’re making changes that move us to the forefront of nutrition in the area and also making it better for our families and the kids,” said trustee Doug Perkins.

With the influx of new housing and families, Ocean Air School was filled to capacity and parents complained about neighborhood children not getting into their neighborhood school. The district board took a big step toward — hopefully — resolving the issue in December by approving the addition of new classrooms at the crowded school.

‘Torrey Hills Lake’

The I-5 on-ramp from Carmel Mountain Road was a source of frustration for much of the year as it started flooding anytime it rained after October 2010. The Torrey Hills Community Planning Board created a flood of its own into city inboxes, sending emails and making calls to ensure that fixing the relatively new infrastructure was a priority.

Delays lasted throughout the year, but work began in late fall to correct the collapsed storm drain. “Torrey Hills Lake” was officially drained by November.

Police station shakeups and workouts

It seemed like every few months, a new San Diego Police Department Northwestern Division captain or lieutenant was being introduced to the community, but things finally seemed to settle around mid-year. Since opening in 2007, the division has hosted four captains.

Carmel Valley Northwestern Division welcomed Captain Albert Guaderrama in January, but he would only last seven months until being transferred, replaced by Capt. Lori Luhnow.

Lieutenant Jerry Mills came on board for a few months in January before being replaced by Lt. Todd Jarvis, who was transferred and there was no lieutenant until September when Lt. Andrew Hoffman arrived.

Hoffman and Luhnow, both with over 20 years of experience, appear here to stay for awhile.

A devoted athlete and fitness buff, Capt. Luhnow was able to convert an empty garage into San Diego’s Finest CrossFit, with the help of donations from Kilroy Realty, Del Mar Highlands Town Center and the Carmel Valley Recreation Council, which pitched in over $19,000 to help establish a program where cops do CrossFit with youth at the rec. center.

“I love this community,” Captain Luhnow said after the quick response of donations.

Even with the busy turnover, there seemed to be no shortage of love for Carmel Valley among police officers who are stationed here. A common saying of new Northwestern cops is that Carmel Valley is the one place in San Diego where the community seems genuinely appreciative of their presence and people always “wave with five fingers.”

Carmel Valley Community Planning Board mourns loss of planner

The Carmel Valley community lost planning board member and active volunteer Scott Tillson on May 19, following a heart attack. Tillson brought a wealth of knowledge to the planning board and played a big role in 2010’s passage of Proposition C, which untied Pacific Highlands Ranch’s development from the completion of the Interstate 5/Highway 56 connectors — Tillson also served on the city’s and Caltrans’ steering committee for that project.

At the Nov. 17 planning board meeting, Tillson’s wife Pat Tillson announced a donation in his name to Carmel Valley’s Fire Stations 24 and 47 of four automated external defibrillators (AEDs), two carbon monoxide detectors, eight collar microphones. Station 24 were the first responders when Tillson suffered his heart attack at his home.

“Firefighters got there very quickly and due to their tireless efforts they were able to transfer him to Scripps Hospital,” Pat Tillson said. “Although the outcome was not what we hoped for we were able to gather the family to say goodbye to Scott. We will forever be grateful for what you did. You gave us the gift of time.”

Del Mar Highlands officially “re-imagined”

Two years in the making, Del Mar Highlands celebrated its grand re-opening after completing a major renovation in September. New eateries have been buzzing with activity, luxury movie theater Cinepolis can serve up popcorn and cocktails to your seat, ladies get stylish blowouts at Drybar, Burlap has become a North County scene, there’s valet service and people are enjoying new gathering spaces and an updated plaza complete with an escalator.

A few more new shops are expected to open next year as well, such as Carmel Valley Swirls, Davanti Enoteca, Mia Francesca and Towne Bakery.

Del Mar Mesa trails

In December, the Parks and Recreation Council approved the resource management plan for Del Mar Mesa and Carmel Mountain preserves, marking the near end of a years-long saga. It still has to be approved by the city planning commission in January.

While many popular trails were preserved in the plan, several were lost and none of the local planning boards were satisfied with a plan that left out an east-west connection across the Del Mar Mesa. Despite many efforts to get that connection, California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) personnel would not budge at this time, saying they were protecting the delicate ecosystem of vernal pools.

“It’s a tough situation, it really is. I think we achieved a workable balance for this first phase,” said Randy Rodriguez of CDFG. “That area in the city has the most access to trails than any other area in the city besides Mission Trails. It’s hard to believe that there’s not enough bicycle trails and facilities.”


The city of San Diego went through the process of re-drawing its eight districts and adding a ninth. Carmel Valley received a scare when one potential map from the Asian Pacific American Coalition proposed splitting the community and moving Carmel Valley out of District 1 into District 5.

The redistricting commission approved its final map in August and Carmel Valley remained in District 1, as drawn out in the Coast and Canyons map that preserved a district composed of communities that share like interests.