Letters to the Editor: Ten former CV planning board members oppose One Paseo

Ten former Carmel Valley Community Planning Board members who held office during the decades Carmel Valley was being built out oppose this project as the most massive and inconsistent with all plans for Carmel Valley ever presented. They also question why crucial impact studies, including traffic, requested by city planners early on have not been provided. They addressed the following letter to the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board and to city council member Sherri Lightner:

“We, the undersigned former members of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, have grave concerns not only about the massive nature of the proposed One Paseo project and its impacts on the community, but as much about the way it is being processed by the Development Services department. Many issues have been cleared administratively even though the absolutely crucial studies recommended by the staff to be provided early in the process have been provided late in the process or not at all and not subject to public review.

“In our tenure on the Board, we have confronted numerous proposals by developers for increases in density that would have been detrimental to the community and largely staved them off or worked out a reasonable compromise. In these endeavors, we always felt that City staff treated the community interests fairly and that there was a level playing field. Looking over the history of this project’s review by Development Services, we cannot see that same level of fairness and openness. While, in the past, it may have been appropriate to wait for a Draft Environmental Impact Report to be released by the City staff before undertaking review and action, we feel that the one-sided influence of the developer in what is by far the largest change in the Community Plan ever considered, compels us to ask that the Board undertake immediate action to ensure that the community interests are recognized and protected.

“The August 2011 Cycle No. 27 Issues Report (Long Range Planning) Issue No. 2 clearly spells out the “two most significant issues” with the proposed development, namely that the Community Plan and Precise Plan do not provide for a regional commercial center and the related development intensity. Issue No. 4 of the same section states that “Development intensity will be evaluated based upon potential impacts to the community or region, including those related to traffic, community character/aesthetics, water supply, public facilities. Staff recommends that required technical studies be provided early in the process as a staff recommendation for a less intense land use concept and alternative land use designation could result if the proposal is found to have undesirable impacts on the community.” This recommendation was made in Cycle 5, approximately two years ago. As of Cycle 27, these studies have apparently not been provided and the issue is not cleared. Likewise, Issue No. 20 entered in July 2009 reiterated the call for a traffic study, as of Cycle 5, “as soon as it is available”. By Cycle 27, no traffic study has been provided.

“Issues 81 through 93 of the Long Range Planning Section deal extensively with the scale and character of the proposed project and describe it as significantly more dense than the surrounding community ending with the recommendation that the proposed project be scaled back and an alternative be found to conform with the prevailing neighborhood character. A report made by an attendee of a December 15, 2011 “informational meeting” hosted by Kilroy Realty indicated absolutely no effort on the part of the developer to consider the recommendations made by Long Range Planning.

“Still, significant concessions to the developer appear to have been granted administratively, apparently — if any credence is given to the comments from this section of the Cycle Report — without any ability to reasonably understand the most critical impacts of the project.

“One example of such a concession is found in the November 2010 Issue No. 57 of the Long Range Planning Section, where a “village” designation, which appears to grant much greater flexibility in allowable uses, can be granted if future transit is available. At the time of the Issue, no transit was or was planned to be provided to Carmel Valley. Since that time, apparently a bus route was added to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan which would run along El Camino Real, and the Issue No. 57 has been checked off as cleared. The adequacy of this remedy does not appear to have been dealt with.

“Another example of a significant concession, Cycle Issue No. 8 (February 2010) from the Park and Rec section states that “the project’s residential units will be subject to population-based park requirements” and that the proposed population of 1,666 will require 4.66 acres of usable park land. In Cycle 27, the Park issue was cleared in Issue No. 26 with the finding that, after meeting with “upper management”, no park land was required to be provided and a payment based on the current per-unit FBA fee for park would satisfy the previous park land requirement.

“To proceed with processing a project of this magnitude and force a regional commercial center on the last remaining parcel in the heart of the Carmel Valley community, contrary to the community plan, the precise plan and at many times the allowed density, without first obtaining the requisite studies as to impacts of intensity, traffic and the like on the community seems to us highly improper. These impact studies needed to be done early on, as staff recommended, so that a less intense land use concept and alternative land use designation could be found at the outset. It obviously does not take 2+ years to complete a traffic study. If the developer waits until the very last stages of the study process to produce this all important document for the City staff, an appearance of political manipulation of the planning system can easily be inferred. Surely, there can be little doubt that such studies would have confirmed the detrimental community impacts apparent to staff at the outset and would have compelled the formulation of a less intense, alternative project. We question why there was no insistence on these studies before the project processing was allowed to go much further. An inescapable implication is that undue influence and pressure are being applied to staff to suppress a reasonable consideration of the issues, impacts and alternatives.

“The appearance of impropriety is further aggravated in that the former Director of Development Services, Marcela Escobar-Eck, now registered lobbyist for Kilroy Realty, is aggressively advocating for this major regional commercial center with city planners. Given her intricate knowledge of how the process works (and can be influenced) and given her preexisting relationship with individuals in Development Services, a highly objectionable ethical conflict of interest may well have been created. It can only be inferred that pressure is being asserted on the various departments to soften their characterization of negative impacts and clear issues preventing a fair, impartial and accurate analysis of the impacts of the project on the community and its facilities and depriving the residents of Carmel Valley of the protections under the Community Plan.

“It is crucial that there be full disclosure, transparency and freedom from improper influence and pressure in the consideration and processing of this proposed development. We urge that staff’s recommendations for intensity, traffic and other impact studies be followed, that such studies be reviewed and analyzed before any more areas of this project are processed further and that a less intense and alternative land use be devised if the studies show undesirable impacts on the community. The fact that the processing of this project has continued without these crucial studies and without analysis of the impacts and alternatives strongly raises the appearance of impropriety and undue influence designed to effect a tacit, administrative approval of this project behind closed doors.”

Gabriele M. Prater, past Vice Chair Carmel Valley Community Planning Board

John Dean, past Chair CVCPB

Joan Tukey, past Chair CVCPB

Ed Vasel, past Vice Chair CVCPB

Ken Farinsky, past Board Member

Karen Cody, past Board Member

Jerry Mailhot, past Board Member

Lee Klausen, past Board Member

Patti Roberts Abramson, past Board Member

Beth Brust, past Board Member