Livability Subcommittee reviewing ways to improve Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch communities

By Karen Billing

Better and safer bike lanes, enhanced parks, streamlined streets and neighborhood beautification — these are some of the extras that a new committee is looking into providing for Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s new Livability Subcommittee met for the second time recently, tasked with finding solutions for park improvements and transportation-related livability and safety issues using community Facilities Benefit Assessment (FBA) funds.

The formation of the Livability Subcommittee was prompted by numerous complaints that have come before the planning board requesting stop signs or other specific quality-of -life issues. Rather than take a piecemeal approach to addressing the issues the committee hopes to develop a comprehensive plan.

The committee, chaired by Manjeet Ranu, includes neighborhood representatives from the planning board, representatives from the parks and recreation board, as well as Monique Chen, a neighborhood 10 resident who has 15 years of experience in transportation planning and engineering and is the principal of the firm Chen Ryan Mobility, and Shreya Sasaki, a Pacific Highlands Ranch resident who is also part of the Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Program.

The committee will meet again on Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center.

At its June 10 meeting, the group poured over large maps of different sections of Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch to identify problem areas and pitch possible solutions.

Ranu said the group’s focus is on traffic calming and FBA-eligible park improvements that, as member Anne Harvey put it, make people feel comfortable enough to use the community streets so they will opt to walk or bike instead of getting into their cars.

The majority of Carmel Valley’s traffic and transportation issues come up around the community’s several schools; pick-up and drop-off times can be a nightmare and cause back-ups on surrounding streets, Ranu said.

“Access to the middle school (Carmel Valley Middle) is clearly a problem,” Ranu said.

Ranu said Del Mar Trails Road comes up a lot in planning board meetings and already stop signs and crosswalks have been added to help students and pedestrians in that area.

One of the areas ripe for planning is the future Neighborhood 8 Park off Tang Road and Carmel Creek Road, near San Diego Jewish Academy. The land is in the city’s Multi-Habitat Protection Area so only 25 percent can be developed, which translates into about a 4-acre park sometime down the line. The group talked about getting a trailhead to the much-used Carmel Valley Restoration Enhancement Project (CVREP) trail that runs along SR-56, as well as providing a restroom near the trail head and a real parking lot for trail users.

Many CVREP trail users park in a lot owned by Clews Horse Ranch on the other side of the trail on Carmel Country Road but once the park is built, the land will go back to private use and public parking will no longer be allowed. The committee said that issue would need to be addressed.

At the main gateways to the community, at El Camino Real and SR-56 and Del Mar Heights Road and I-5, the committee noted there is nothing that really establishes that people are entering Carmel Valley.

“It looks like you’re looking at the back of somewhere else,” Harvey said.

White said it might be nice to have some kind of monument sign to give the community an identity. The committee members also discussed more trees at the entry and a boulevard treatment along Del Mar Heights Road.

“A lot of things One Paseo talked about doing we could do them,” Farinsky said, referencing the over $5 million in community benefits that Kilroy Realty has proposed along with its mixed-use project on Del Mar Heights and El Camino Real.

Kilroy’s proposals include wider sidewalks, crosswalks and a linear park along Del Mar Heights Road, a tree-lined median on Del Mar Heights and a series of public plazas and spaces on El Camino Real.

Pat Collins, chair of the Carmel Valley Recreation Council, said the council would like to build a soccer arena on the under-used field atop the Carmel Valley Recreation Center. He said two arenas could fit there, side by side with bleacher seating, and could be used for lacrosse, field hockey and even some Pop Warner football.

“It would service the community tremendously,” Collins said.

With One Paseo, Kilroy has stated it would take on the design and engineering costs for a new soccer field at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center, along with a landscaped gateway with a staircase that leads up to the center, tucking the parking under the field. Kilroy has said the project could generate $12-14 million in FBA funds that could go toward its construction.

Marilee Pacelli, also from the Carmel Valley Recreation Council, said the council would like to pursue artificial turf on some of its fields to allow for expanded use. Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White said they have to be careful with artificial turf because there needs to be a budget for continued maintenance and that the turf likely has to be replaced every 10 years.

Pacelli noted that they do spend a lot of money on watering the natural grass right now.

Committee member Ken Farinksy said there is also a big problem for pedestrians trying to cross into the Carmel Valley Recreation Center from the Del Mar Highlands Town Center side. The committee suggested a possible crosswalk with in-ground lighting that is pedestrian-activated, like the kind on Camino Del Mar in Del Mar Village.

Neighborhood 10 representative Laura Copic said there are many issues in the Sage Canyon and Ocean Air neighborhoods with children trying to get to school. She said many parents instruct their children to ride their bikes on the sidewalks because it is unsafe in the bike lane — this causes other people jogging or walking with strollers or dogs to have to get off the sidewalk and into the bike lane.

Chen said that this might be an area where they could build a protected facility for the bike lane, a barrier that separates the bike lane from the traffic lane so people (and children) will feel safer using it.

Other issues the committee brought up included:

• Adding parking spaces in front of the park on Del Mar Trails

• Addressing parking issues on Carmel Mission near Bay Club Carmel Valley (formerly Pacific Athletic Club)

• Improvements to Carmel Vista — the area behind the office buildings should be made more appealing with landscaping

• Extending the crowded parking lot at Torrey Highlands Park off Lansdale Drive and enhance the corner area on Lansdale and Del Mar Heights Road

• Adding a comfort station and restroom on the lower part of Solana Highlands Park

• Adding a trailhead and parking at the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve entrance at the end of Carmel Mountain Road

• Removal of the dedicated right-hand turn lane onto Ashley Falls Drive

• Extending the CVREP trail 1.23 miles under I-5 to link Old Sorrento Valley Road to create access to the lagoon and ocean (a benefit Kilroy has also proposed)