Letter to the Editor: Traffic impacts are far from hypothetical

Steve Laverson’s letter (“Mixed-use pedestrian-oriented plans like One Paseo can help reduce local auto travel”), Jan. 26, 2012, appears to be another in a long series of Kilroy Realty Corp.’s promotional efforts to attempt to gain support for its project by reiterating platitudes and avoiding facts.

Contrary to the assertions contained in his letter, it is important to note that prior to 2010, the City Planning staff expressly recommended that impacts studies (relating to traffic, parking, scale commensurate with the surrounding neighborhood, etc.) be provided early in the process, as staff recommendations for a less intense land use concept and an alternative land use designation could result if the project is found to have an undesirable impacts on the community. (Cycle 5).

Clearly, city planners themselves foresaw significant negative impacts. What other developers might attempt to do is not the issue; the impacts this unprecedented monumental departure from the CV community plan will have on our community are. I have represented developers in Los Angeles and saw what happened to that city many years ago as traffic became a nightmare and parking became virtually impossible. The local communities should be able to vote on a project of this magnitude, not have it rubber-stamped at the last minute without a full opportunity for meaningful community input — after a full-disclosure of negative traffic and parking considerations at the earliest phase of planning.

How will One Paseo reduce local auto travel? Although the plan for One Paseo would have relatively level interior streets where people can walk once inside the project (which, by the way, would require, according to the plans, the export of 500,000 cu. yds. of dirt to other locations — that’s equivalent to 25,000 double dump truck loads traversing our streets during construction), outside of a limited number residents living within a half mile radius of the project, all the other patrons of the project will access it by… guess what? That’s right, automobiles. Additionally, how can a new regional-draw retail center survive just from Carmel Valley residents and not require a considerable influx of patrons from the outside areas?

Does anyone really think that people who live in Carmel Valley and have to use Del Mar Heights Road to go to and from work, take kids to and from the local high schools, or shop in the local centers should not be concerned about traffic from a new development that has a retail component equal in size to the Del Mar Highlands Town Center (on three-quarters of the land area as the Town Center, I might add) , plus more office space than it is currently entitled to, plus a 150-room hotel, plus 608 residential units?

Traffic impacts on the community are far from “hypothetical.” But what if, hypothetically, they are correct? Do you want a developer to be given a nearly 4X entitlement increase if the traffic ends up going from bad to impossible? The developer, three years after the project was first presented to the City, has a pretty good idea what the traffic impact is going to be. I’m unaware of any law that prohibits them from releasing traffic estimates before the City staff approves the release of the Environmental Impact Report. If there were, it certainly hasn’t stopped the developer from mounting a well-financed PR campaign to highlight a few attractive elements of the plan and avoid disclosing the many negative aspects. How can any intelligent person express support for the project without any reasonable idea of what the traffic impacts might be? Wouldn’t you think that the developer owes the community at large a reasonable, fact-supported estimate of the likely impacts of traffic from his proposed new development before he asks for their support to go ahead?

In conclusion, let me say that almost everyone I’ve talked with has no idea of just how massive this proposed project would be. I ask all of Carmel Valley to look at the aerial rendering attached, and imagine driving in one of the cars depicted and what it will feel like to be alongside the 10- and 8-story office buildings on El Camino Real. Or better yet, drive to the 8-story office building next to the Marriott Hotel (currently the tallest office building in Carmel Valley) and stand 30’ from the building (which is how far the eight-story office building proposed for One Paseo would be from El Camino Real) and see if you think that is the appropriate scale for the heart of Carmel Valley.

William C. Bibb

A concerned resident of Carmel Valley