Council delays Carmel Valley One Paseo decision; developer compromise may be brewing

One Paseo site plan
( / Courtesy)

The San Diego City Council voted 7-2 to delay its decision on the One Paseo project on May 18, scheduling the referendum-forced second hearing for three days later at 1 p.m. May 21.

Last month the referendum petition to overturn the San Diego City Council’s decision on One Paseo gathered more than the necessary 33,224 signatures to force the San Diego City Council to either take back its approval of the 1.45-million-square-foot mixed-use Carmel Valley project or put it on a ballot.

Councilmember David Alvarez made the May 21 motion to continue the item, because he said he heard there is a potential for compromise between the developer Kilroy and Donahue Schriber, the owners of the neighboring Del Mar Highlands Town Center that helped fund the referendum petition that prompted a rehearing by the council.

Alvarez said that he has heard the compromise on the One Paseo project could include a reduction of half the average daily trips (ADTs) proposed, down to 14,000 trips, which would greatly reduce the traffic impact on the community.

Neither Kilroy’s attorney Jeff Chine nor Donahue Schriber’s attorney John Ponder could confirm what the compromise would be, or the scope of the negotiations, because of pending litigation and a confidentiality agreement.

No matter what agreement may be reached before May 21, the City Council’s only actions to be taken that day would be to rescind its approval of the proposed project or submit the matter to a citywide vote.

A project that is “substantially similar” to the proposed One Paseo cannot be considered by City Council for a 12-month period. Whether the compromise reflects a project that is substantially different enough has yet to be seen.

Council President Sherri Lightner and Councilmember Marti Emerald both voted against continuing the item.

“My concern is hearing fatigue,” Lightner said. “If two hours of testimony is not enough pressure to get this resolved, I don’t think another two days is going to get it resolved. I think it’s unfair to the public to do this at the last moment.”

Lightner said she hopes her colleagues will rescind the decision at Thursday’s meeting and send the developers back to the community to create a project that works for everyone involved.

On Monday, Golden Hall was filled with two hours and 10 minutes of public testimony waiting to be given. One Paseo opponents sported red “No Paseo” T-shirts, and supporters wore shirts that read, “Let the Voters Decide.”

Lightner last week said that she did not want to see the project go to a vote because of the cost. According to City Clerk Liz Maland, to put the item on the June 7 agenda will cost the city $814,000 to $815,000. If a special election is called for the item, it would cost $4 million to $4.5 million.

During public comment, several speakers objected to moving the item, arguing that the justification was “vague” and that it was unfair, since nearly 200 people had taken time out of their days to come all the way downtown for the hearing.

Lisa Ross, a member of the Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Group, said it was troubling that negotiations are going on behind closed doors. Joe LaCava, chair of the San Diego Community Planners Committee, said further delaying the decision plays into the developer’s hands and that if the council rescinded the decision that day, the developers would still have the ability to reach some kind of compromise.

“A request for continuance is unconscionable,” said Nancy Novak, a former member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board. “The appropriate time would’ve been at the last City Council meeting, when the voice of the people was not heard.”

Councilmember Todd Gloria said while the brewing compromise sounded promising, the issue of average daily trips was not the only issue raised by project opponents, citing density and building height, specifically.

Gloria asked Donahue Schriber if they were against any retail being built on the neighboring site.

“No, never have been and never will be,” answered Pat Donahue, chairman and chief executive officer of Donahue Schriber. “We have no problem with the good folks at Kilroy putting as much retail as they want on the property. Our problem has been with the number of trips that the proposed One Paseo creates … we don’t believe that the area can handle the traffic.”

Gloria said while a compromise would be ideal, his only concern is that it is between two developers and not with the community.

“This is all an illustration of the absurdity of the referendum process,” Gloria said. “It absolutely needs reform.”