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A look back at Carmel Valley’s top stories of 2015

The One Paseo site as seen from High Bluff.
(Karen Billing)

Another year in the life of One Paseo

After the Carmel Valley Community Planning board could not support One Paseo in 2014, the project finally made its way in front of San Diego City Council in 2015.

Council approved One Paseo with a 7-2 vote on Feb. 23. The meeting stretched seven hours and hundreds of project opponents filled council chambers and overflow rooms.

Only Council President Sherri Lightner and Council President Pro-tem Marti Emerald voted against the motion, which approved the mixed-use One Paseo at 1.4 million square feet with 246,500 square feet of retail, 484,000 square feet of office space and 608 residential units on El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.

Councilmembers approved the project on the conditions that 10 percent of the residential units are affordable housing, that the project’s transportation shuttle be implemented prior to the first certificate of occupancy and that Kilroy’s benefit of an adaptive control system for the traffic signals be a permit condition.

Opponents of One Paseo launched a referendum movement, seeking to gather the necessary 33,224 signatures to force a repeal of the council’s approval or put One Paseo to a citywide vote.

There was a “feeding frenzy” for signatures in March, as Kilroy sought to get rescission signatures alongside those gathering referendum signatures throughout the city. Both sides were accused of harassment and dishonest tactics.

Lightner joined representatives from the Carmel Valley and Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Boards, Protect San Diego Neighborhoods, What Price Main Street, Mitigate One Paseo as they delivered boxes of over 55,000 signatures on the March 25 deadline.

Lightner said she applauded the efforts of community leaders who have worked to raise awareness about the “massive project” as she was disappointed that the council had disregarded the concerns of the planning groups and thousands of residents.

She said when the council “ignored” the community planning process, all communities in the city were put at risk and it set a precedent for future “massive developments.”

“The petition sends a strong message that approval of this project affects every neighborhood in the city,” Lightner said.

As the San Diego city clerk tallied and verified signatures on the referendum and countering signature withdrawals, two separate lawsuits were filed in April against the city and Kilroy Realty; one by Donahue Schriber the owner of Del Mar Highlands and a second by the Alliance for Responsible Development, the East Bluff Community Association and Mitigate One Paseo.

The community groups alleged that One Paseo’s environmental documents were “riddled with flaws and inconsistencies” and that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) does not provide the necessary analysis of impacts, alternatives and mitigation measures.

Donahue Schriber’s suit also challenged the validity of the EIR and its “flawed” traffic study that they believe under-counted traffic generation rates.

A referendum-forced hearing was held on May 18 but council voted 7-2 to delay their decision for three days later on May 21 as Councilmember David Alvarez heard there was a potential for compromise between

Kilroy and Donahue Schriber.

At that May 18 meeting, Golden Hall was filled with two hours and 10 minutes worth of public testimony waiting to be given. One Paseo opponents sported red “No Paseo” t-shirts as supporters wore shirts that read, “Let the Voters Decide.”

It took six years and three extra days, but Kilroy was finally able to come to a compromise that appeased the community—The announcement that a scaled-down “new” One Paseo is in the works and news that lawsuits from neighboring Del Mar Highlands Town Center and community groups had been called off, came at the San Diego City Council’s referendary hearing on May 21.

After hearing that a deal had been struck that all parties were happy about, Council voted unanimously to rescind approval of the previous 1.45 million square foot project and send it back to the community for revisions.

“I’m hopeful about his agreement and I think it’s a great thing and I think it will move this community forward,” said long-time project opponent Ken Farinksy. “This is an opportunity to get the mixed-use project that we want with the community input that we need.”

Kilroy agreed to reduce the project’s 28,000 average daily trips by nearly half, have 30 foot setbacks from the road, eliminate one planned traffic signal on Del Mar Heights Road, cap office building heights at seven stories and significantly reduce the bulk and scale of the project.

Kilroy essentially went “back to the drawing table” and community workshops were held throughout the summer as residents weighed in on the designs for the new One Paseo. The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board will vote on the revised plans at a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 7 p.m. at Cathedral Catholic High School.

Happy trails for Del Mar Mesa

After eight long years in the forging, San Diego City Council was finally able to approve the resource management plan for Del Mar Mesa Preserve on Aug. 3, opening 7.9 miles of trails while restoring 13.3 miles of illegally created paths.

Trails have been closed in the preserve since 2008 as the comprehensive plan has been in the works. Over 18 meetings of public outreach were held and the most controversial part of the plan was the trail maps, which involved the closures of paths that were redundant or dangerous and ones that were deemed to cross environmentally sensitive areas.

“I think this does deserve applause,” Council President Sherri Lightner said after the unanimous vote. “This is huge.”

Lightner said the plan will define trails for park users, restore habitat and enable the creation of an east-west trail if the regulatory agencies support it in the future.

Torrey Hills recreation center

In 2015, the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board heard the city’s plans to build a “modest” 2,000 square foot recreation center on four-acres that have been long vacant at Torrey Hills Community Park. The anticipated cost for the project is about $4.1 million and the city hopes to have a final design in place by 2016.

Talks of a YMCA in Torrey Hills also re-ignited in 2015, eight years after the organization had to pull out of plans for a facility in the community. The YMCA would utilize the same empty four-acre parcel at the park.

“We are very interested in Torrey Hills and this area of the city. It is underserved by what we do,” said Bernie Porter, the senior vice president of human resources and general counsel for the YMCA of San Diego County in March. “The YMCA wants to be a ‘third place’. You have a place you live, the place you work and the third place where you hang out. We want to a good, safe place to be.”

Porter said a possible plan for Torrey Hills would be a 35,000 to 45,000 square foot building with a gym and pool, soccer arenas and a parking lot at a cost of about $10 million.

Cal Coast Academy approved

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board failed to come to a majority vote on the controversial plan to build a 5,340 square foot private school for a maximum of 75 students across from the Clews Horse Ranch.

The Clews family had fought against the development so close to its ranch and riding arena, citing concerns about the danger the adjacent school use poses for riders, fire safety issues on the narrow access road and the possibility that the school could effectively put their ranch out of business.

On April 23, the board voted 5-4-2 on a motion to approve the construction of a new classroom building for Cal Coast Academy, next to the historic Stevens House on the CVREP trail. Without a vote of at least nine members in support, the project was forwarded to the San Diego Planning Commission without a recommendation.

The school was approved 4-2 by the planning commission on Aug. 27.

Cal Coast has agreed to numerous “voluntary neighborly measures” to respect the sensitivity of the horses next door include capping the school at 75 students, using no outside alarms, bells or public address system and having no recess or PE on campus. Cal Coast will also limit school traffic on the small Clews Ranch Road by shuttling students to and from campus from the CVREP parking lot on Carmel Country Road and maintaining the 10 miles per hour speed limit.

DMUSD gets new board members, modern learning studios

In 2015, the Del Mar Union School District had to replace two board members through public interview processes.

In March, they sought to replace trustee Doug Perkins, who resigned from the board to serve on the San Diego County Board of Education. (Perkins resigned from the county board in June due to suffering a massive hemorrhagic stroke).

Eleven candidates vied for the seat, which was awarded to Del Mar Heights parent Erica Halpern, former chief operating officer for investment banking services with Goldman Sachs.

In June, board member Alan Kholos left the board due to his company’s relocation. Two candidates applied and Sage Canyon parent Darren Gretler was appointed. Gretler is the assistant director of department of planning and development services for San Diego County.

The district also re-branded its ESC (Extended Studies Curriculum) ESC with STEAM + and created a pilot program for modern learning studios, transforming traditional classrooms into spaces that help students meet the new standards that demand more collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication.

Trader Joe’s, a park, a school and lots of new homes in Pacific Highlands Ranch

Pacific Highlands Ranch grew up in 2015 as construction boomed on new homes and new community amenities opened.

Trader Joe’s received an enthusiastic welcome in March—San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner helped snip a large lei at the new Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch store and Trader Joe’s crew members formed a receiving line at the entrance cheering each customer who entered and gifting them with a lei around their neck.

The Village’s businesses opened all year long in 2015 including Rite Aid, Starbucks, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Panera Bread, Baked Bear and more. Food truck nights were held to bring the community together—several new restaurants are expected to open in 2016. After months of delays, the new Crunch Fitness opened in November, just in time for people to work off holiday season indulgences.

The long-awaited Solana Ranch Park opened on March 27. The five-acre park features

a tree-lined promenade, multi-use play field, picnic tables, a comfort station, grassy amphitheatre space, a half basketball court and a walking loop of about a quarter mile. The tot lot play area for children, with slides, merry-go-round and swings is named the Scott Tillson Playground, in honor of the dedicated community volunteer and member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board who passed away in 2011.

Planning is also underway on the design for the Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park and accompanying 17,000 square feet Recreation Center. The design committee is looking to add alterative recreation like a cycle pump track, parkour course, a skate plaza and a kids’ adventure garden in addition to traditional recreation like basketball courts, sports fields and playgrounds. Funding for the park begins in July 2017 and construction is expected to take two years with a target completion date of July 2019.

In the fall, Pacific Trails Middle School opened to 237 seventh grade students. The San Dieguito Union School District campus neighbors Canyon Crest Academy and the PHR Community Park and Recreation Center will be next door. The school’s gym opened in November and its learning commons is on schedule to open Jan. 4, 2016. As the school’s campus becomes more complete, a plaque dedication will be held in 2016.

SDUHSD enrollment

After a year’s worth of workshops, surveys and passionate debates the San Dieguito Union High School District board decided that the high school enrollment process would not change. The board made direction to the district staff after a three-hour public meeting at Carmel Valley Middle School on Aug. 31 attended by nearly 200 people.

The board was considering three options: to draw boundaries around all four high schools, to maintain the current mix of boundary and open enrollment schools or to draw up small boundaries around San Dieguito and Canyon Crest to give preference to students that live in close proximity of the schools.

As Superintendent Rick Schmitt noted, there is no perfect solution in which everyone will be happy—the goal was to find the option that positively impacts the greatest number of families.

“I truly do believe in choice,” board member Joyce Dalessandro said. “There’s been no evidence presented this evening or prior to this that is compelling enough reason to change the whole system as it stands. This system has been working beautifully, almost flawlessly, since its inception.”

Parking relief under construction at Del Mar Highlands

Construction kicked off in mid-August on a portion of a new parking garage at Del Mar Highlands Town Center to address parking shortages at the center. The first phase is expected to be complete in June 2016.

When fully built out, the parking garage will add 600 additional spaces.

Once the first phase of the garage is complete, Cinepolis will begin work on an expansion to grow to an 11-plex cinema. The Cinepolis upgrade is expected to be complete in fall 2016.

Future plans for Del Mar Highlands include a new Kinder Care location adjacent to the parking garage and an additional 80,000 square feet of new retail spaces on two levels on the south side of the center that was not touched by the last renovation.

Planning board approves park improvements across Carmel Valley

In 2015, Carmel Valley Community Planning Board gave the nod for $18 million worth of improvements at Carmel Valley parks.

The funding comes out of Carmel Valley’s Facilities Benefit Assessment (FBA) fund, paid into by developers to assure that new development pays for proportional community facilities.

The board approved adding synthetic turf at Carmel Valley Community Park and Ocean Air Community Park and new comfort stations (restroom facilities) at Solana Highlands Neighborhood Park, Carmel Knolls Neighborhood Park on Carmel Canyon Road and Carmel Del Mar Neighborhood Park.

Improvements also included a concession building at Sage Canyon Neighborhood Park; a comfort station/concession/storage building, new picnic tables and shade structures at Ocean Air Community Park; additional parking and shade structures at Torrey Highlands Neighborhood Park; and a new children’s play area at Carmel Creek Neighborhood Park. Carmel Grove off Carmel Creek Road will get a comfort station, new picnic table and shade structure and Carmel Mission Neighborhood Park, across from Bay Club Carmel Valley will get a comfort station, helpful for people who use the park to access the open space trail system.

The projects will now go to City Council to be approved into the city’s capital improvement program for the 2016 budget and begin the design and construction process.


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