New green project in Carmel Valley raises neighbor concerns

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Eight new houses planned for the last available lot in one Carmel Valley neighborhood are stirring up concerns from surrounding residents.

About 21 neighbors showed up to share their issues with the project at the Oct. 5 Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues committee. The planning board will give direction on the new housing development at its next meeting, scheduled to be held on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Carmel Valley Library.

The project is planned for Worsch Way on a wooded hill bordered by Del Mar Trails Road and Worsch Drive.

Worsch was one of the original landowners in Carmel Valley, selling some 300 acres to Baldwin Homes in 1981, with the Worsch family keeping their 1.6-acre homestead. The land went up for sale last year after the death of the family matriarch, and was purchased by Del Mar Mesa resident Gary Levitt of Seabreeze Properties. The Worsch home is still up there and will be removed.

“We saw an opportunity that really applies a solution to development in a different way,” Levitt said.

In an attempt to fit into the community with the least amount of disruption, Levitt’s plans include minimal grading to preserve the existing slopes, trees on the slopes and the retaining walls.

Levitt is aiming for sustainable “new ideas of living.” Understanding that there is a market for homes for an aging population, Levitt said his design guidelines require that all master bedrooms be on the ground floor. The homes will be in an “L” shape with courtyards to give an indoor-outdoor architecture feel and allow people to live simply, utilizing natural sun and breezes. The development will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified with solar energy features and water-conserving landscape.

“We don’t build homes so we created very detailed design guidelines and we’d require any builder to meet that commitment,” Levitt said.

The eight lots will range from 6,000 square feet to 8,500 square feet and will be accessed up a driveway from Worsch Way.

Some neighbors aren’t so sure about the new homes on the hill. In a neighborhood where streets are terraced one above the other, one resident who lives on San Andino Cove said the new development would destroy her view.

Donna Kaiser said that she is able to look down now on a greenway with beautiful trees, home to owls and hawks. Putting eight houses there would completely change the view from her home.

“That lovely green property will be gone,” said Kaiser.

Neighbors said the driveway servicing eight homes would be just like putting eight new homes on Worsch Way—they worried about overflow parking on the street, and garbage cans having to come down the hill.

Levitt said he agreed that the parking issue is a valid concern, as is the garbage cans — he said the homes would probably have a private trash pickup.

“There’s no HOAs, no private drives in our neighborhood, this would be the only thing out of character,” said resident Chris Brown, adding that he thinks the project will also reduce their property values.

Brown said as the project stands it is not minimally impacting the surrounding neighborhood as is Levitt’s stated goal, but instead is “The most intrusive.”

Levitt said the alternative to being on the hill is bringing the homes down to street level, which would involve extensive grading — about 4,000 trips of trucks being driven through the neighborhood for three to four months.

“It’s the wrong thing to do for the environment, the worst thing a developer can do is come in and reshape the land,” Levitt said.

Their plan now is the most sensitive to the existing landscape, he said.

A couple of residents agreed with his logic.

“It’s actually refreshing that for once a developer wants to come in and leave the topography,” said a resident who asked not to be named.

Karen Cody, one of the original homeowners in the area in 1985, said she thinks the property should be left the way it is, with residences on the hill and not on street level.

“I don’t feel a row of houses there would be acceptable,” Cody said. “I like the approach they’ve taken.”