Board OKs mixed uses at Whispering Palms

Neighbors object to proposal

By Joe Tash


The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Jan. 13 to clear the way for a controversial mixed-use development at the entrance to the Whispering Palms development in Rancho Santa Fe.

Supervisors rejected an appeal of county staff’s earlier approval of the project. Richard Cavanaugh and his company, Newport Pacific Inc., plan to build a 54-unit apartment complex, along with office and retail space on the 4.3-acre parcel at Via de la Valle and Cancha de Golf.

The project is called Palma De La Reina.

About 40 Whispering Palms residents who oppose the project attended the Jan. 13 supervisors meeting.

As a county staff member explained to the board that his department determined the project’s environmental impacts were not significant, several audience members uttered profanities loudly enough to draw an admonishment from Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who chaired the meeting.

Residents had a number of objections to the project, including potential traffic and parking impacts, and the number and size of the apartments proposed by Cavanaugh. They said the proposed development was not in line with the “community character” of Whispering Palms, and they also questioned whether contamination exists from a gasoline station that once stood next to the parcel.

The San Dieguito Planning Group had appealed county staff’s decision to grant a grading permit for the property without a full environmental impact report.

In rejecting the appeal, supervisors supported staff’s contention that opponents failed to demonstrate the need for further environmental review.

In rejecting the appeal, supervisors said they were aware of community opposition, but that the project is allowed by the property’s commercial zoning.

Supervisor Ron Roberts said he clearly recalled a hearing 10 years ago, when Cavanaugh had applied to build an assisted living facility on the same property. Roberts said community opposition helped kill that plan.

At the time, Roberts said, he remembers thinking that residents who opposed the assisted living center might come to regret it, because traffic and noise from a commercial development would be far greater.

After the hearing, Dennis O’Dorisio, president of the Whispering Palms Community Council, said residents will consider all of their options, including legal action.

Cavanaugh said that at the time the assisted living facility was rejected, residents said they wanted a commercial development to provide services to the community.

He told the board he decided to “give the people what they wanted.”

Outside the hearing, Cavanaugh said he plans to begin grading this summer, but construction won’t begin until he obtains financing, probably in 2011.