Carmel Valley faces ‘Traffic Cliff’
At the heart of our nation’s fiscal cliff was our government’s willingness to spend more than can be supported by its revenue sources. Carmel Valley now faces its own “Traffic Cliff” in Kilroy’s request for our community’s approval of its recently reduced One Paseo, which is still nearly one million square feet more than the current City approval. When you add their request to another one million square feet that neighboring landowners are already approved to build, some of which is already in planning, our community’s streets will simply be unable to support the traffic that it brings. While we applaud its mixed-use concept, our community must insist the developer further reduce One Paseo at the Jan. 24 meeting of the Community Planning Board, or we surely will go over a “Traffic Cliff” into a sea of perpetual traffic congestion.
As many are aware, the City entitles each parcel in a community with a specific build-out capacity such that the traffic generated by the total build-out of all the parcels will not overload the capacity of its streets. Periodically the City measures the actual traffic on each street and gives it a Level of Service (LOS) grade A through F. Like a school grade, the City considers LOS F “unacceptable” and characterized by “...extremely low speeds caused by intersection congestion, high delay, and adverse signal progression...”.
A 2009 Traffic Study indicated that segment of Del Mar Heights Road between I-5 and El Camino Real was already at LOS D “where small increases in volume produce substantial increases in delay,” an accurate description of the delays we all experience already.
The nearly 1 million square feet of already entitled future development surrounding but not including One Paseo are roughly the size of four Del Mar Highlands centers. These include another 150,000-square-foot Del Mar Highlands expansion and one more 150,000 Neurocrine building to the south of One Paseo. Build-out of this 1 million square feet alone will take Del Mar Heights Road well beyond the unacceptable LOS F level, even before considering One Paseo’s request for an additional million square feet over their approval. Proposals such as the developer’s synchronized traffic light offer have already been discredited as an effective mitigation measure.
It’s well known in real estate circles that Kilroy overpaid for the parcel based on its 500,000-square-foot entitlement, hence the request for an additional million square feet to “make it pencil.” But to gain approval the developer had to deliver a traffic study to the City that accounted for both its neighbors’ already approved million square feet, plus the million it wants to add, and not have it show traffic generation beyond the threshold of LOS F. How did it approach this?
Magicians call it misdirection: while Kilroy focused our attention on tasty barbecues, idyllic renderings and the convenience of one 13,000-square-foot specialty food store, their traffic engineers were making the nearly 1 million square feet of its neighbors’ already approved entitlements disappear, at least from the all-important traffic study they submitted to the City.
Unfortunately, being glossed over by Kilroy will not keep those other owners from building out their development rights. By themselves and even before considering the reduced One Paseo, these build-outs will take our main arteries over the Traffic Cliff and into LOS F, bringing much extended commuting times to and from work and school, interminable waits during peak hours and events, and unacceptable response times for emergency vehicles.
Our own 11th hour for avoiding going over the Traffic Cliff is Jan. 24, the next meeting of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, when the developer will present its recently reduced One Paseo and request the Community and Planning Board’s support. Join us at this meeting to insist the developer produce a complete traffic study, and use it to actually work in good faith with the board to arrive at a much smaller, more traffic-friendly plan that still includes Trader Joe’s, but adds less congestion to our streets so we can continue to enjoy our community and what in many other respects is a well-conceived mixed use development.