Carmel Valley neighbors voice variety of opinions on proposed housing development

By Karen Billing

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s Regional Issues Subcommittee again recently reviewed a proposed new housing development on Worsch Way in Carmel Valley, with many neighbors present expressing their continued concerns about the potential of eight more houses in their neighborhood.

“The two biggest issues are the impacts of having something there that wasn’t there before and where that driveway is going to go,” said Jan Fuchs, regional issues committee co-chair.

The Worsches were one of the original landowners in Carmel Valley, selling some 300 acres to Baldwin Homes in 1981, with the Worsch family keeping their 1.6-acre homestead on the hill off Worsch Way, near the intersection of Del Mar Trails and Worsch Drive.

The land went up for sale last year and was purchased by Del Mar Mesa resident Gary Levitt of Seabreeze Properties. The Worsch home is still there and will be removed in favor of the subdivision, with original plans calling for an access point on the existing driveway from the Worsch Way cul-de-sac.

The lot is zoned for 13 homes, but Levitt is only proposing eight. Levitt plans for the homes to target an aging population with design guidelines requiring that all master bedrooms be on the ground floor. The homes will be in an L-shape with courtyards to give an indoor-outdoor architecture feel and allow people to live simply, utilizing natural sun and breezes. The development will be LEED certified with solar energy features and water-conserving landscape.

Levitt has adapted his plan from when it was first presented to the city, lowering the site three feet with the plans to export 7,500 cubic yards of dirt. All of the trees on the top of the slope will have to be removed to make way for the homes.

Levitt said they would’ve liked to keep some of the trees, such as an old Torrey pine, but it was not possible with fire and city safety regulations. Levitt planned to maintain the slope, preserving the existing landform and community character.

“I have the opportunity here to do something different,” Levitt said. “I just thought we had an opportunity to treat this property special and leave it as high as possible.”

He said what they are proposing is the better solution than eight more garages facing public streets.

Due to residents’ concerns, Levitt has explored several alternatives, including bringing the access road to mid-block on Worsch Drive, which would lower the site further and increase the quantity of dirt that has to be hauled out to 14,000 cubic yards. By putting the drive out onto Worsch Drive, the lots of the subdivision will be larger and there will be one less unit—only seven homes.

Levitt said he is willing to go lot by lot and see how they affect surrounding neighbors, tailoring the community design guidelines to include single story zones.

Other alternatives included moving the entrance onto busy Del Mar Trails, which Fuchs said the city would never approve, and a multiple driveway alternative that would bring the entire project down from the slope and onto street level, eight different driveways out onto Worsch Drive and Del Mar Trails.

Bringing the site down to street level would shoot up the earthwork to 34,000 cubic yards of dirt that needs to be removed — one truck can carry about 12 cubic yards, stretching a removal project over multiple months.

While Levitt was sensitive about the number of trucks going through the neighborhood, residents said they are less concerned with the removal process than they are with the end result.

“I don’t care about dirt that has to be removed, I care about my home,” said Worsch Drive resident Dan Nobakobich.

If anything, Nobakobich preferred the alternative that has the access coming onto Worsch Drive, but other residents were mixed on which one they preferred.

“From our standpoint, the best for us is if the homes have multiple driveways and to keep the project down low,” said neighbor Chris Brown.

Nobakobich, as well as others, expressed concerns that their property values would go down with the new homes on the hill looking down on theirs.

Levitt, as well as committee co-chair Anne Harvey, said the project would add property value, not take away from it. Harvey said she’s lived on the smallest street the city’s ever built (Arroyo Sorrento Road) since 1968. Her home was built in 1958 and the neighbors agreed to preserve the canyons and allow for no architectural guidelines for future homes.

“My 1958 house is next to a $15 million house,” Harvey said. “We’re moving into the future here…my property values rose because of the non-homogenous nature of my street.”

“If we do something special, it will add value to your homes,” Levitt said.

The committee requested Levitt look more closely at the mid-block alternative onto Worsch Drive and look into turning the driveway on the Worsch Way alternative, so headlights of cars coming down the slope wouldn’t shine directly into front rooms of houses.

While issues remain on the best solution for the access road, overall the committee seemed to be in favor of the proposal.

“What Gary’s proposing is a good plan and a good use of what’s there,” said Frisco White, chair of the CV community planning board. “We need to step out of the box and do something more than just cookie cutter homes.”