Group to study changing 5/56 requirement

Need for freeway connector preventing Pacific Highlands Ranch growth

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board is creating an exploratory committee to study revising Proposition M to disconnect the Pacific Highlands Ranch community from construction of the Interstate 5/Highway 56 connectors.

“Pacific Highlands Ranch should be free from whatever happens with 5/56,” urged Dean Dubey, the board’s PHR representative.

Prop M, passed in November 1998 with 53 percent of the vote, stipulates that development in Pacific Highlands Ranch not exceed 1,900 units until ramps are built that connect westbound Highway 56 with Interstate 5 North and Interstate 5 South with eastbound 56.

Dubey said at one time Prop M made sense as a way to minimize the community’s effect on Carmel Valley. But as things stand now, residents to the east are without their own shopping centers, parks and schools and their impact to Carmel Valley is what Prop M had been designed to keep at bay.

Pacific Highlands residents all have to get in their cars to come to Carmel Valley, Dubey said, instead of enjoying the self-sustained community they were promised when they bought their homes.

“Residents wouldn’t be forced to come to Carmel Valley if we had our own,” said Dubey to applause by many neighbors in the audience.

Due to the language in the measure, any alternative to the direct connectors that Caltrans is considering — be it the auxiliary lane or hybrid options — would not allow the cap to be lifted in PHR since only a direct link would meet the Prop M requirements.

Last June, then-City Council President Scott Peters proposed a change in the Prop M language that would have required only a ramp for west 56 with north 5 be constructed and operational. The planning board did not support the change and Peters dropped his request.

Caltrans reported that only 10 percent of the demand for all of the 5/56 alternatives comes from PHR.

Dubey pointed out that even as PHR’s development remains capped and without amenities, communities to the north and east are not capped and continue to build and flow onto the 56.

“We’re talking decades that this community is going to stagnate,” said PHR resident Dan Gehlhaar, noting how long it will take to build the freeway project.

The Carmel Valley board has also been asked to take a position on the 5/56 project, but their stance has always been that they would wait until the environmental impact report is released and all of the information available.

Board Chair Frisco White said as they have waited, other planning boards have become engaged in the project and started to weigh in.

“I think we need to start participating,” board member David Bartick said.

Board member Scott Tillson, who also sits on the 5/56 steering committee, said that it is still too premature to take a position.