Carmel Valley Planning Board rejects One Paseo, would like to see a reduced project

By Karen Billing

One Paseo is moving on to the city’s decision-makers without the backing of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

The board rejected One Paseo’s proposed project on Sept. 11 with an 11-2 vote, but the board said it would support a reduced mixed-use alternative that cuts the development down by half.

Carmel Valley Planning Community Board Chair Frisco White encouraged the board not to just deny the project outright but to consider conditions they would accept should the development move forward. Board members who opposed the project fought hard to get the word “reject” front and center in their motion.

“It makes the point clearer,” board member Chris Moore said in crafting the motion. “The size and scale of the project are not appropriate for Carmel Valley. We want to emphasize that point.”

Rather than the proposed 1.5 million-square-foot project that includes 198,500 square feet of retail, 484,000 square feet of commercial office, and 608 multi-family residential units, the board said it would support a reduced alternative of 140,000 to 198,500 square feet of retail, 267,800 square feet of office and 304 residential units.

“Like all major projects, One Paseo generated a robust public discussion, and we’re proud of the enormous base of support the project earned from Carmel Valley families who welcome a true main street experience to our neighborhood,” said Kilroy Realty in a statement. “We appreciate the consideration of the Carmel Valley Planning Board and look forward to moving the project as currently proposed on to the next steps in the approval process.”

Carmel Valley Community Planning Board Vice Chair Manjeet Ranu and business representative Victor Manoushakian were the only board members to vote against the motion, lending support to the proposed One Paseo.

Ranu said in the last six years he has seen the project change significantly and he appreciates the efforts Kilroy Realty has made in response to residents’ comments and concerns. He said he thinks One Paseo’s extra housing offering is important and that the project gives the community an opportunity to have an anchor for its employment center.

“I’m comfortable with the urban character of the project and they’ve done a lot to stitch it into the community of Carmel Valley,” Ranu said. “I don’t see any issue with something that’s different and stands out.”

Investor representative Brian Brady from Kilroy Realty and developer representative Allen Kashani from Pardee Homes both recused themselves from the vote.

One Paseo will now move onto the city planning commission, scheduled to be heard on Thursday, Oct. 2. Meetings are held at 9 a.m. in the City Council Chambers at the City Administration Building downtown. The project is expected to come before the San Diego City Council for its decision before the end of the year.

Canyon Crest Academy’s 400-seat theater was filled near capacity  with people at the meeting, the majority in opposition but also some in support of One Paseo.

City staff members were on hand for the board to ask questions of them — 40 detailed questions across eight categories. With their final environmental impact report, city staff has recommended approval of One Paseo, and the board felt their report to be very dismissive of any of the project alternatives and wanted to know why.

“Our recommendation is that the benefits outweigh the environmental impacts,” said Cathy Winterrowd, deputy director of environmental and resource analysis for the city’s department of development services, noting she understands that the community may disagree on that point. “The staff did the analysis and it is the staff’s opinion that the project should move forward.”

“Why is the staff making such a strong position to move forward with a project that has so many impacts on the community?” White asked.

Winterrowd said that staff believes One Paseo fits into San Diego’s “City of Villages” strategy in the General Plan, that focuses growth into “mixed use activity centers that are pedestrian-friendly districts linked to an improved regional transit system” with accessible, attractive streets and public spaces and plazas that bring people together, and offer a variety of housing types for people with different incomes and needs.

The planning board argued that no such transit exists in Carmel Valley and since it is so crucial in the development of “villages,” how is One Paseo allowed to be considered one?  The planning board noted that all the other designated villages in the city (in Barrio Logan, Otay Mesa and Ocean Beach) have set transit.

Renee Mezo, project manager, said the lack of existing public transit is something the staff really grappled with, but they are allowed to look at planned transit for the future in their analysis. They were encouraged by Kilroy’s planned use of shuttles for workers during peak hours.

“The shuttle project could serve as a proxy for public transit in the interim,” Mezo said.

Board member Anne Harvey said Carmel Valley’s street system is not a grid and not planned for transit. She said the streets were designed for cars and bikes to move around arterial streets snaking throughout the community.

“To claim that transit is going to work just doesn’t make sense. The city just couldn’t seem to get their heads around that,” Harvey said. “We already have most of a village here. No one denies that the Kilroy site should be developed. We did what we were supposed to do for 35 years, to simply duplicate it just doesn’t make us a village.”

The board had a lot of questions about why the reduced mixed use was determined not to be feasible in the Final Environmental Impact Report’s (FEIR) retail market analysis.

“The Reduced Mixed Use alternative’s reduction in housing and retail density leads to a reduction in the mixed use characteristics of the site as a ‘village’ and therefore lacking the vibrancy and atmosphere needed to ‘activate’ the project,” the FEIR reads.

The document says the smaller retail component also does not complement Del Mar Highlands Town Center — similar tenant mixes would fail to differentiate the two centers.

“Lacking a critical mass of retail space, a reduced project could effectively duplicate the types of retail tenants already present in Carmel Valley, rather than fill the void by providing the upscale retail opportunities currently lacking in Carmel Valley.”

According to the report, the Reduced Mixed-Use alternative would generate an annual net fiscal impact to the city ranging from $250,000 to $410,000 per year in comparison to an estimated $538,000 to $880,000 from the proposed project,

Reduced mixed use would provide 873 permanent jobs compared to 1,591 permanent jobs associated with One Paseo.

White wondered why economics so often trumps community impacts in the staff’s assessment.

Board member Laura Copic said she didn’t understand how the mixed-use alternative could be dismissed as infeasible; she said it still seems to achieve all the project goals in some measure and lessens the impacts on the community.

“I’d like to have seen it taken more seriously by the developer,” said planning board member Rick Newman.

Board members remarked that the benefits detailed seemed more to meet San Diego’s regional goals than to help the Carmel Valley community.

“From our standpoint, what are we getting from this? I have regional shopping at UTC and in Encinitas. You’re asking us to put up with a lot. We’re not going to get anything we don’t already have. What are we getting, a bowling alley? Where’s the museum? Where’s the town hall? Where’s the repertory theater?” asked board member Hollie Kahn. “Are you willing to throw us under the bus for the bigger benefit of San Diego?”

Traffic has long been a major concern of the board regarding this project. The 510,000 square feet originally planned for the site would generate 6,500 average daily trips, while the proposed project would generate 23,850 average daily trips, a difference of 17,360 trips representing a 267 percent increase.

Traffic engineer Ann French-Gonsalves said that the applicant is taking steps to mitigate all of their significant traffic impacts. The board asked whether the $3 million adaptive control system Kilroy has proposed for 40 intersections in Carmel Valley will actually work.

French-Gonsalves said the results of Kilroy’s pilot studies were positive.

“The traffic engineering department has agreed that it will be completely beneficial and are ready to go ahead with it,” French-Gonsalves. “The conclusion is that it’s expected to improve the situation. It’s not a required mitigation, the applicant is bringing this forward above and beyond the required mitigation.”

The board also had concerns about the shared parking strategy for the development, whether there will be enough parking for all the uses.  Board member Hollie Kahn said she used the numbers given to do her own analysis and has found deficits of over 1,000 spaces during the times of noon and 7 p.m.

French-Gonsalves said there are a total of 3,668 shared parking spaces but residents will not have to share — 1,116 spaces are reserved for residents only.

Kahn said that for 608 residents, 1,116 spaces are not enough.

“That’s not a realistic number. I’m concerned about parking because there’s no overflow,” Kahn said. “There’s just not enough parking anywhere in Carmel Valley. If you build it they will come and if there’s nowhere to park it’s horrendous.”

French-Gonsalves said according to their studies they consider the project to have sufficient if not an excess number of spaces.

The board also had questions about the children generated by the project — how they will impact demands on park space and what schools they will attend.

Winterrowd said that the project is expected to generate approximately 122 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and they will be absorbed by the Solana Beach School District. The project will also generate 120 seventh through 12th graders, who will attend San Dieguito Union High School District schools.

The board asked if there is enough room for the students at the schools and Winterrowd said that is not a city issue. To account for the impacts to parks, the applicant will be paying park fees, she said.

One of Kilroy’s proposed community benefits was contributing toward the design of two new sports fields at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center, however, that benefit is no longer on the table as the city does not put parking structures in city parks — the fields had been proposed atop a parking structure.

After about two hours of questioning the city staff, the planning board went to work crafting its motion until after 10 p.m. Many board members were uncomfortable with not flat-out denying the project but encouraging the reduced mixed use.

Copic said she would like to see an appropriately sized mixed-use project, but said she was concerned about the strength in which city staff supported the intensification of the site and was worried that it would sail through the planning commission’s approval.

“If we do a modified approval the message won’t be strong enough,” Copic said.

As board members Nancy Novak and Moore noted, one of the biggest issues they’ve heard from residents is about the size and scale and they wanted to make sure that was addressed.

“The motion should be wordsmithed to more definitively state our rejection of the reduced Main Street and the reasons why it’s not right for the community,” said Moore who was able to work with Copic to modify the motion for the board’s 11-2 vote.

The board made a second motion that included all of its conditions regardless of the final project. Conditions included items such as the buildings and garage facing the neighboring offices needing visual impact improvements and that the design of the residential homes fronting Del Mar Heights Road need to be enhanced.

The board also requested that there be an independent project manager assigned who ensures that all of the community benefits that were promised are delivered.

“The community benefits are vitally important to lessen the effects of the project with its substantial changes in community character,” said Ranu. “It’s a protection for us. We need to be clear and explicit that our expectations are based on what we were told.”

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