Carmel Valley board makes no recommendation on school proposed next to horse ranch

A rendering of Cal Coast Academy, a school planned next to Clews Horse Ranch on the CVREP trail.
A rendering of Cal Coast Academy, a school planned next to Clews Horse Ranch on the CVREP trail.
( / Courtesy photo)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board failed to come to a majority vote on the controversial plan to build a 5,340-square-foot private school for a maximum of 75 students across from the Clews Horse Ranch. On April 23, the board voted 5-4-2 on a motion to approve the construction of a new classroom building for Cal Coast Academy, next to the historical Stevens House on the CVREP trail.

Board members Anne Harvey, Debbie Lokanc, Jon Tedesco and Steve Davison voted against the motion to approve, and Chair Frisco White and Victor Manoushakian abstained.

Without a vote of at least nine members in support, the project is forwarded without a recommendation. The board did approve sending a letter to the city detailing their concerns with the project, including the safety and feasibility of the 20-foot dirt access road of Clews Ranch Road as well as the conflict between the multifamily zoning in the vicinity of the community’s valued rural open space of the Carmel Valley Restoration Enhancement Project (CVREP).

As a discretionary land use project, Cal Coast will next go to the city’s Development Services Department’s Hearing Officer on May 20; any appeals will be made to the San Diego Planning Commission.

Board member Christian Clews, who owns Clews Horse Ranch, recused himself from the board and was asked to leave the room. At the last board meeting in which Cal Coast was discussed on March 26, Clews was allowed to be in the room and also to present information on the project. He called his dismissal on April 23 “arbitrary and capricious.”

“I just want to go on record as saying that I was very displeased with the procedural process for Cal Coast,” Clews said, noting that as a longtime land owner he has a depth of knowledge on the area and that leaving him out of the discussion resulted in pertinent information not being shared.

Representatives from Cal Coast and Clews Horse Ranch disagreed on several points about the development; but as Ted Shaw of Atlantis Group said, the multifamily zoning allows the school to be built by right, and they have made numerous compromises to help lessen the impact on the neighboring horse ranch.

The small school will be capped at 75 students. Because of school program’s unique setup, not all students are on campus at once. To be sensitive of the horse use next door, there will be no outside alarms, bells or public address system, no recess and no PE.

Because of the small dirt road with a 10 mile per hour speed limit, two vans would shuttle students along the 1/4-mile road, from the CVREP parking lot on Carmel Country Road, from 8:15 a.m. through 8:40 a.m., from 2-2:30 p.m. after school and from 4 to 4:15 p.m. after tutoring.

Parents and staff would be required to sign statements about the sensitivity to the horses and to maintain the 10 mph speed limit. Vehicle privileges would be revoked for the five to eight student drivers after one warning, staff would be fined $50 for complaints about speed.

The Clewses have also expressed concerns about a telecommunications cable to the house that stretches low over their riding arena. Even though the cable has been there since before the riding ring was developed, Shaw said Cal Coast has agreed to have it undergrounded if their project is approved.

“The intent is to be a good neighbor, to work with the community and be a part of the process,” Shaw said. “We’ve done everything the Clewses have asked us to do, except move.”

In his approval of the project, board member Brian Brady agreed that the applicant appears to have gone above and beyond.

“I understand there’s a lot of emotions and sensitivity with the ranch, but they’re willing to do a lot of things here to be good neighbors, and it seems to be a relatively benign use,” Brady said. “If I was in their shoes, I think it would be a pretty good neighbor to have.”

Some board members doubted that the school would be able to maintain and enforce the 10 mph speed limit on the road.