By Karen Billing
After six years of planning and community input, the final environmental impact report for the proposed One Paseo mixed-use development for Carmel Valley was released last week, a document more than 7,000 pages long.
The final environmental impact report finds nine significant and unmitigatable impacts with One Paseo, eight of them related to traffic.
Representatives from developers Kilroy Realty say they strongly believe that their project is much better than where they began (2.1 million square feet with a hotel element and taller buildings) and that the benefits to the community will outweigh the impacts. Opponents still aren’t sure.
Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the project at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board meeting at Canyon Crest Academy. The planning board will make its final recommendation on the project at a special board meeting on Sept. 11, also at 7 p.m. at Canyon Crest Academy.
The planning board’s recommendation is an advisory vote on the project to be forwarded to the San Diego City Council.
Kilroy expects to be before the San Diego City Council for a final decision by November.
“We really need people to come out and voice their support. Oftentimes the people opposed to the project speak as though they’re the voice of the entire community, and they’re just not,” said Marcela Escobar-Eck, representing Kilroy Realty. “(One Paseo) has evolved into a great project. All of the delays and pushing us have really made it a better project.”
What Price Main Street, the opposition group, stated on its website stated that Kilroy seems to have gone through “significant contortions” to justify putting their “massively dense, UTC-type project into Carmel Valley” despite the report’s stated impacts to traffic and community character.
“We have to vote with our feet and with our voices. Please make your voice heard by attending the upcoming planning board meeting on August 28,” Ken Farinsky of What Price Main Street said. “Please be sure to fill out a speaker slip at the meeting, You don’t need to speak, but filling out the speaker slip will make your presence known.”
Kilroy’s preferred alternative for One Paseo is called Reduced Main Street, a 1,454,069-square-foot project that includes 198,500 square feet of retail, 484,000 square feet of commercial office and 608 multifamily residential units.
The final EIR document found nine environmental impacts that are significant and unavoidable, meaning that even with mitigation measures, impacts remain significant.
The EIR states that even though the Reduced Main Street alternative reduces bulk and scale and building height, it still results in “significant neighborhood character impact.”
The transportation impacts and the proposed mitigations include:
• A direct impact on Del Mar Heights Road between I-5 southbound and northbound ramps. Caltrans is proposing to lengthen the Del Mar Heights bridge as part of the I-5/SR-56 connector project; however, the installation of a replacement bridge is outside the city’s control and not likely to occur before the construction of One Paseo.
Kilroy has agreed to make a $1.5 million contribution toward Caltrans’ project to widen the Del Mar Heights bridge improvements in excess of its fair-share contribution of $1,192,500. Kilroy has also entered into an agreement with Caltrans that if the bridge is not improved within seven years, the $1.5 million must be re-invested into Carmel Valley for other transportation management projects.
• Impacts to Del Mar Heights between the I-5 northbound ramps and High Bluff Drive. Kilroy will be required to widen the segment of Del Mar Heights to High Bluff, including extending the westbound right-turn pocket at the northbound ramps by 845 feet and modifying the raised median. It would reduce but not fully mitigate the impact.
If this widening and the bridge replacement were implemented, the EIR states the impacts to this segment of road would be reduced to a level below significant — but until that time, they remain significant.
• El Camino Real from Via de la Valle to San Dieguito Road. Kilroy is required to make a 4.9 percent fair share contribution toward the city’s project to widen El Camino Real to four lanes.
• Impacts to traffic on Via de la Valle from San Andreas to El Camino Real. Kilroy is required to make a fair share contribution of 19.4 percent toward a current project to widen the road to four lanes, but the project is part of the Black Mountain Ranch Public Facilities Financing Plan and the improvements will not be installed before One Paseo occupancy.
• El Camino Real and SR-56 eastbound on-ramp. Mitigation requires the applicant to make a fair-share contribution of 3.5 percent toward the cost of restriping the eastbound approach to provide one left-turn lane, one shared through/left-turn, one through and two right-turn lanes at the intersection. The improvements are within Caltrans’ jurisdiction and will remain significant until they are implemented.
• Del Mar Heights I-5 northbound ramps and Del Mar Heights I-5 southbound on-ramp meter. Kilroy will be required to widen the northbound off ramp to include dual left turn lanes, one shared through/right and one right-turn lane. On the southbound side, they will be required to make a 34.8 percent fair share contribution toward adding a high-occupancy vehicle lane to the on-ramp.
“We are mitigating and addressing all of our impacts,” said Escobar-Eck, noting that the two problem areas of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real are already in the process for approval for widening projects and the six that remain are all because of Caltrans.
Even though the EIR finds that there are significant environmental impacts that cannot be avoided even with all the mitigations, Kilroy presented its overriding considerations on the project, saying that “the benefits outweigh the unavoidable significant impacts.”
Benefits cited include job creation, a boost in the local economy, participation in SANDAG’s Regional Beach Sand Project, an advance of up to $1.1 million to the SR-56/I-5 CVREP trail under I-5, and a 1.23-mile-long connection to link Old Sorrento Valley Road to the lagoon and to the ocean.
Kilroy will also fund the more than $3 million adaptive traffic control system on Del Mar Heights Road to improve the flow on the busy road; $150,000 toward the investigation and installation of traffic-calming devices on High Bluff Drive; $40,000 for the design and installation of Carmel Valley community identity monuments; planted medians, tree-lined parkways, crosswalks and bike lanes on Del Mar Heights and El Camino Real; and up to $550,000 for the design and engineering (although not the construction) of potential enhanced park and play fields at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center.
In addition to the revised project, the EIR evaluated seven other project alternatives. They were: no project; 510,000 square feet of office space for which the land is already zoned; commercial only; medical office/senior housing (425,000 square feet of medical office and 600 senior housing units); no retail; reduced mixed-use (140,000 square feet of retail, 267,800 of commercial use and housing cut from 608 to 304 units); and a specialty food market retail alternative that would not generate more than 6,500 average daily trips.
The EIR states many of these alternatives would lessen the impacts on traffic but not reduce them to a “level below significant” — however, the office center alternative would specifically avoid two of the significant traffic impacts and would not affect community character.
The planning board had asked to see the reduced mixed-use alternative, which further reduces the project by about 50 percent. But, according to Kilroy’s statement of overriding consideration, none of the alternatives meets the project’s objectives to provide additional housing types and employment opportunities, a mixed-use village consistent with the General Plan, provide the community with a place for public gathering and promote sustainable development principles and smart growth.
Farinksy disagrees that the reduced option would not be feasible.
“We feel a sense of déjà vu again, where the only ‘feasible’ option is a massive project with uncorrectable traffic and significant community impacts,” said Farinsky. “We agree with our own planning board that notes in their comment letter that a reasonable project could be achieved with a lesser level of development.”