Carmel Valley planning board recommends Prop. M amendment

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board voted 10-1 on Tuesday evening to amend the language to Proposition M and will request that the city sponsor putting the changes on the November 2010 ballot.

The changes seek to help a community that is being “held hostage” by the language of Prop. M, which was approved in 1998 and capped the development of Pacific Highlands Ranch at 1,900 units until connector ramps are built for Interstate 5 and Highway 56.

“When Prop. M was done in 1998 it did the right thing at that time,” Chair Frisco White said. “We realize that where we are today, we need to make some changes.”

White said the “unintended consequences” of the proposition became too severe — PHR has become a stagnant community, White said, without the necessary amenities for the people living there. The plan had always been for it to be a self-sustaining community and it hasn’t been allowed to grow under the restrictions, he said.

Additionally, board member Scott Tillson said the wording of Prop. M is a problem as it gives a preference to only the direct connector alternative to the freeway. If another alternative were selected, the community wouldn’t be able to grow.

Freeing PHR from its link to the freeway project will allow the community to achieve the critical mass needed to get facilities like parks, schools, a village center and library. Tillson said if the changes were approved, there wouldn’t be a “blank check” for development. The proposed changes carry a condition that the San Diego City Council creates a phasing development program.

The idea that developers would be given a blank check was what initially worried planning board member Dave Bartick about altering the proposition. He felt the original Prop. M language worked to provide limited development.

“I do believe that this amendment with the phased development provides the safeguards we need,” Bartick said. “The city will be unable to issue permits unless certain amenities are operational.”

Pacific Highlands Ranch representative Dean Dubey was the sole vote against the changes. He said he still has concerns about the hours of operation of the Village Center, the proposed 27-acre mixed-use retail center on Carmel Valley Road. He also wanted the changes to reflect the fact that a grocery store promised by Pardee Homes has yet to be built.

He said many of his neighbors were still upset about the way the Village Center was approved and would rather see Prop. M stay the same than have development that they are not in favor of.

“Maybe we’re better off living with the cap (on development),” Dubey said. “This proposed proposition does not contain enough concessions from Pardee Homes to guarantee that there will be a net positive benefit for the residents of Pacific Highlands Ranch.”

Tillson said the ballot measure was not the place to address the operation hours. He said in a citywide vote, the language should be as simple as possible. He said in response to Dubey’s issues, they would tell City Council that neighbors have said that a grocery store is a top priority.

Some PHR residents in attendance, including Dirk DeGraw, disagreed with Dubey. DeGraw said that it was very important to disconnect from the freeway project so they can build their community. As it is now, children don’t even have a park and they are forced to play in the streets.

PHR resident Sheri Kono said she is concerned that Dubey is pushing to split the community on the issue and if the changes to Prop. M are not passed, they will only continue to be held hostage.

White said that in the coming months the community will need to come together because it won’t look good to city voters if half of PHR is for the changes and half is against.