The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board was split 5-5 on whether or not to approve the new vision for One Paseo. A crowd of 150 people attended the special meeting held at Cathedral Catholic High School on Jan. 13 — the majority of them expressing opposition for the reduced project, that they still believe is too large, will generate too much traffic and impact emergency response times.
Any motion needed nine affirmative votes to carry. The project will next go to the San Diego Planning Commission and then to the San Diego City Council.
Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White took a stab at a motion for an approval for the project.
“Having the benefit of working with a core focus group and community-wide workshops, Kilroy Realty strived to redesign the project to be more compatible and acceptable to the community,” White said. “Nevertheless, One Paseo to some will never be accepted or desired, but we must understand that a development of some sort will be constructed on the site and that we must, at times, reach a decision that will be beneficial.”
The motion was supported by board members White, Ken Farinsky, Shreya Sasaki, Monique Chen and Christian Clews.
Board members Anne Harvey, Jon Tedesco, Steve Davison, Debbie Lokanc and Chris Moore voted against the motion.
“I don’t want to succumb to the pressure to do something just because it’s taken a long time to get to this point. We pushed back once and we got a reduced project,” Davison said. “Maybe we should push back again.”
The board did vote unanimously to forward a letter to the city with 11 conditions for approval. Conditions included that the project not generate more than 14,000 average daily trips (ADTs), increase the affordable housing element to 20 percent, that Kilroy engage in serious dialogue for a public-private partnership to provide public transportation and that project mitigation requirements and community benefits are permit conditions.
Jamas Gwilliam, vice president of Kilroy Realty, presented the revised project he said is “substantially different” than what was approved by City Council a year ago. He said since hitting the reset button in May, they created many opportunities for engagement and involvement with the community that they believe resulted in the best possible plan. Kilroy gathered input from about 400 attendees at two summer community workshops and 5,000 visitors to their virtual workshop online provided an additional 200 comments.
“We’re really excited about how this has taken shape,” Gwilliam said.
The new One Paseo has reduced building heights and reduced the ADTs by half, from 27,000 to 13,500, which has resulted in a 40 percent reduction in density. Kilroy has increased setbacks around the site to a minimum of 30 feet, in some cases it is as much as 50 feet from Del Mar Heights Road, creating a buffer of a linear park.
The 95,000 square feet of “highly-curated” retail will be located in a cluster of one-story buildings at the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights, blending into the surrounding neighborhood with use of materials such as stone and wood.
The 608 residential units will be highly amenitized with rooftop lounges, a fitness center and a dog park.
“There was a concern about a wall of residential units,” Gwilliam said, noting they have addressed that by softening the edges with landscaping, reducing heights and using architectural variations to increase the visual interest for the corner of Del Mar Heights and High Bluff Drive.
The 280,000 square feet of office space will be four to six stories off of El Camino Real. Gwilliam said the intent is for the buildings to be the “siblings” of the office building Kilroy recently completed next door at The Heights.
Gwilliam said they’ve taken care to enhance the landscaping, using mature trees such as olive and oak trees scattered throughout, and to create welcoming community spaces in the project’s plazas.
“We want it to be a place to further enjoy what you already see in Carmel Valley,” Gwilliam said.
The new One Paseo does not result in any new or more severe significant impacts that were not studied in the prior, certified Environmental Impact Report. The smaller project generally results in less environmental impacts and the city is preparing an addendum to the EIR to document that fact.
According to city staff, there is no set release date for the addendum but it will be available two weeks prior to the planning commission’s hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for the end of February.
Gwilliam said during the workshops, it became clear that the previous project’s original mitigation of a 845-foot single right turn pocket on Del Mar Heights onto I-5 northbound was encroaching too much on the homes and they were asked to look at dual right turns instead. He said they are willing to implement the dual right turns.
One of the planning board’s conditions is the requirement of one lane extending only to the AT&T building.
Ten signals from Mango Drive to Lansdale Drive will feature traffic signal synchronization to help with the flow of cars. Gwilliam said this is not required mitigation but a project feature paid for by Kilroy. The upgraded system will feature emergency vehicle pre-emption technology to allow emergency vehicles to control all lights at once.
As part of the project’s transportation management program, a shuttle will also provide an east-west connection on Del Mar Heights Road with a new connection to the Solana Beach Transit Center.
Barbara Bry, a candidate for City Council District 1, said that she was in favor of the project. She said she considers it a triumph that Carmel Valley and the rest of San Diego pulled together to get City Council to rescind their previous approval and to work with the developer to create a better project that works for Carmel Valley.
“Progress requires compromise,” Bry said, noting that she supports the project on the condition that there is an increase in the affordable housing element, a commitment to bringing public transit to Carmel Valley, and the establishment of an emergency response team west of I-5.
Janie Emerson, president of the East Bluff Community Association, also shared her endorsement of the project, complimenting Kilroy on its willingness to be responsive to the community’s concerns.
“This is truly a testament to what can happen when a community works together and finds solutions with a developer,” Emerson said. “I hope it sets an example for the rest of the city,”
For the majority of people who spoke during public comment, the compromise and improvements were not enough. Many said they expected after the project went back to the drawing board it would be more drastically reduced. As presented it is 1.2 million square feet, reduced from 1.4 million.
Many in opposition said the new One Paseo was still too massive, out of character and would create “untenable” and “nightmare” traffic situations. They also expressed concerns about the lack of public transit.
“We don’t care about plants,” said neighbor Penny Davis of the enhanced landscaping. “Why do we need such a dense project that doesn’t fit this community at all? It’s wrong for Carmel Valley.”
Supporters of One Paseo felt the compromises reached were fair and would result in a community benefit.
“Personally, I love the updated design by Kilroy. The more options that I have to walk to places to eat and play, the happier I am as a person. Other people in the city would die to live in this community, don’t let the naysayers blow it for the rest of us,” said resident Jimmy Silverwood. “Live, work, play is the wave of the future and Carmel Valley needs to get on board.”
As several public comments centered on how the project might impair emergency response time and cause loss of lives, one of the board’s conditions was that Kilroy work with the city on a rapid response team or shared fire station on the western side of I-5.
The board also discussed the transit concerns, with board member Chris Moore requesting that Kilroy consider that its shuttle service the Sorrento Valley Coaster Station, as there is already bus service on Highway 101 and there is not bus service on El Camino Real, the main route to Sorrento Valley Road.
“I appreciate Kilroy’s new attitude and I think the project has improved tremendously but they started from a baseline that was still not fair,” board member Anne Harvey said of her vote against the project. “If you increase the zoning so much there really should be extraordinary benefits.”
Board member Ken Farinsky said he was initially supportive of the project before becoming one of the most vocal advocates in opposition.
“I hate to disappoint people but I have switched back to supporting the project,” Farinsky said. “Yes, the residential is a bit over the top but Kilroy worked hard to keep street frontages to a minimum so people across the street won’t see a five-story wall. Pragmatically, I need to approve this…It’s not perfect but I believe it’s something that I can live with.”
In prefacing his “no” vote, board co-chair Jonathan Tedesco said he worried that the project will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on the things people value about living in Carmel Valley — safety, home values, school and family.
“It was a thoughtful effort but it’s just not a project that I can get behind as presented,” Tedesco said.
“We live here, we’ll be neighbors to this project,” Gwilliam said of Kilroy. “We have a vested interest in making sure it’s an asset to the community.”