After eight long years, numerous hearings filled with passionate opposition and a referendum effort that created a renewed developer focus on community outreach and scaled down plans, the One Paseo mixed-use project was approved in a 8-1 vote by San Diego City Council on Monday, June 27. Council members remarked that the feeling of this hearing was much different than last year’s, complimenting the compromises reached between developers and the community after they sent Kilroy Realty back to the drawing board to redesign.
“Obviously a lot has happened since this was heard over a year ago and I applaud what has been done regarding outreach,” Councilmember Todd Gloria said of Kilroy’s public design workshops and meetings that helped shape the new project. “I think what has come out of what was really an unfortunate circumstance is a model that really every developer in every community can use to engage all corners of the community.”
Council President Sherri Lightner, representing Carmel Valley’s District 1, was the sole vote against the project.
“The project is still more than twice the size and twice the number of ADTs (average daily trips) than the original entitlement and is the perfect example of spot zoning,” Lightner said. “Despite the strides made to mitigate the negative impacts One Paseo will have on the community, many significant un-mitigable impacts remain in the redesigned project. I still have concerns about the bulk and scale, about the lack of adequate on-site affordable housing, traffic, public safety, and the cumulative impacts it will have on the overall community character.”
According to Kilroy spokesperson Rachel Laing, phased construction could begin on the project in winter 2016, with the first retail spaces opening in 2018; housing and offices to follow in 2019.
James Gwilliam, senior vice president at Kilroy, described the extensive outreach for the project’s “reset” that included formal meetings with a working group composed of several community members, community design workshops with 400 participants, and a virtual workshop online to reach people who typically are unable to attend meetings and workshops. The online information and offerings reached an additional 5,000 people and netted 200 additional comments.
“The new One Paseo is really a reflection of this process,” Gwilliam said. “We thank the members of the community who took the time to work with us and be involved in these discussions. We’re committed to making it something the community can enjoy for a long time.”
The new project reduced traffic by 40 percent (for 14,000 ADTs) and reduced building heights and density with the mix of uses woven together by a series of walkable paths and plazas. The office buildings were scaled down to four stories and six stories located on the lowest part of the site (down from the original nine to 11 stories, and the residential units at the corner of High Bluff Drive and Del Mar Heights Road have been softened with reduced heights and increased landscape buffers.
Trees are a prominent part of the new One Paseo, with mature trees planted throughout. Janie Emerson, president of the East Bluff Community Association, complimented Kilroy on its “tireless” outreach —noting that the community’s involvement was as deep as picking the project’s trees.
“I hope we can all learn from this process that when you give the community and the developer time to work out their grievances, we end up with a project that benefits the entire city,” Emerson said. “By giving us time to sit down and come together, we now have a project we are proud of.”
The majority of public testimony in Golden Hall was in favor of the new One Paseo. Councilmember Lori Zapf said it spoke volumes to her that a many of the project’s “biggest foes” were now speaking out in favor of the project after the collaborative process over the last year. One such voice was Ken Farinsky, who was one of the project’s strongest opponents, leading the What Price Main Street group with Bob Fuchs.
“I applaud the City Council’s previous reversal, giving the community a chance to work with Kilroy to create a new project. One that keeps the positives while eliminating many of the negatives,” Farinsky said. “The opposition leaders will tell you that Kilroy played by the rules. The result was a compromise that, in my view, is pretty good. Not perfect, but reasonable. Something I can support.”
Fuchs said Kilroy did a “commendable” job in reaching out to the community and accommodating people’s concerns.
The project also received endorsements from Donahue Schriber (owner of neighboring Del Mar Highlands Town Center that had been part of the lawsuit against the project), the San Diego Economic Development Corporation, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Circulate San Diego and several residents.
“I have always liked the project,” said Carmel Valley resident Bobbie Walton, who was part of the One Paseo working group. “I’m so excited about having it come to our community.”
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board who, in January, was split on the project, sent along a letter listing its remaining concerns with the project. Its objections were not universal — members who voted against One Paseo did so because the density was still too high, because it was not allowed in the community plan and due to the impact to schools, traffic and emergency response. Some wanted more workforce housing, some did not want affordable housing.
In January the board made a request that 20 percent of the 608 residential units be affordable housing and on Monday Lightner again asked Kilroy to stick to that point as well, saying it is a critical need in the city.
Gwilliam said they would commit to 10 percent affordable housing but they would not be able to arrive at the 14,000 ADTs if they had more affordable housing. There is no cap on ADTs but the parameters of the project, including the 1.2 million square footage, are contained within the permit.
Lightner said a lot of project opponents emailed her to say they would not come to the meeting because they believed it wouldn’t do any good. She said they thought that their voices would fall on deaf ears and that the outcome was predetermined.
“It’s disturbing but not unexpected that the residents might feel that way,” Lightner said.
One opponent who did show up, Cynthia Farwell, said her blood pressure was going up listening to everybody speaking out in favor of the project. She hadn’t intended to offer public comment but put in a late speaker slip to make her voice heard to council.
“I’m so opposed to this at the current square footage,” Farwell said. “I personally don’t know one person who wants it that dense.”
Resident Cheryl Sullivan echoed that she did not expect the outpouring of project support, personally finding the project “ridiculous” in scale. She said she felt like One Paseo represented a “broken promise” to those who had invested in the community with the understanding that the land was entitled to just 500,000 square feet of office space in the community plan.
Resident David Pool, who was involved with Pardee Homes’ initial development of Carmel Valley, said it would be “40-year-old thinking” to build office buildings on that site.
“To use the property in that way today would be an utter, absolute tragedy,” he said.
Despite her vote in opposition, Lightner said it was “impressive” how the community came together to fight for a better outcome more suitable to the community’s needs, to reach the compromise that they did. As Councilmember Scott Sherman said, the best deal is often when neither side gets everything they want. He said he could understand residents’ reluctance to change but felt that many of their fears may not materialize when the project is finally built.
“I’m fairly confident that with the way the community worked together on this one that with a little bit of time, people will realize that it will be a benefit for everyone,” Sherman said.