San Diego City Council approves One Paseo project in Carmel Valley


San Diego City Council approved the One Paseo development in Carmel Valley with a 7-2 vote on Feb. 23. The meeting stretched for seven hours, and hundreds of project opponents filled council chambers and overflow rooms.

Only Council President Sherri Lightner and Council President Pro-tem Marti Emerald voted against the motion, which approved the mixed-use One Paseo at 1.4 million square feet with 246,500 square feet of retail, 484,000 square feet of office space and 608 residential units on El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.

Councilmembers approved the project on the conditions that 10 percent of the residential units are affordable housing; that the project’s transportation shuttle be implemented before the first certificate of occupancy; and that Kilroy’s benefit of an adaptive control system for the traffic signals be a permit condition.

Councilmember Lorie Zapf said this was one of the most difficult decisions the council has had to make in a long time.

“We want to build a sustainable San Diego, but we also want to build a San Diego that all income levels can afford,” Zapf said, noting that the project will include the affordable middle-class housing that the city lacks.

Zapf said One Paseo was “smart growth,” representing the mixed-use community of the future for San Diego, a place where people can live, work and play while reducing the burden on the city’s freeways.

“It is a well-thought-out project, it is the growth our city needs to experience,” said Marcela Escobar-Eck, representing Kilroy. “One Paseo stands to be one of the most progressive and sustainable projects in San Diego.”

Lightner expressed her disappointment in the council’s decision. She said One Paseo was too large in bulk and scale, dramatically alters the community character, and creates “horrendous and unmitigatable” traffic impacts.

“I am discouraged by today’s outcome, as I strongly oppose the One Paseo project as proposed, or even with the minor modifications requested tonight,” said Lightner in a statement. “The current project has too many significant impacts to the surrounding community, including traffic, parking, public safety and community character.”

The council’s decision to approve One Paseo came after four community planning groups (Carmel Valley, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines and Del Mar Mesa) rejected the project. The neighboring cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach, and the Solana Beach School District, also did not favor the full-size One Paseo and supported the reduced plan.

“I’m disappointed. I feel like the planning boards don’t matter,” said Debbie Lokanc, a Carmel Valley Community Planning Board member. “It’s just such a slap in the face to the planning board members who dedicate a lot of time to making our community a better place to live. I would like to thank Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner for listening to the voices of the people who live in this area.”

Lightner also said she was disappointed that the developers could not work with the community to achieve a solution that is acceptable to the entire community.

“Using ‘spot zoning’ to shoehorn a project that is three times too big for the site strikes a blow against the community planning process,” Lightner said. “The EIR (Environmental Impact Report) is fatally flawed; the scale of this project creates unmitigated issues and the project will not conform to the surrounding community.”

Lightner and Emerald did attempt a motion to approve a reduced scale One Paseo project, but it failed in a 6-3 vote.

Councilmember Myrtle Cole was part of the support for the reduced One Paseo.

“It’s important to be business-friendly and preserve community character and quality of life, and I want to see a project like this succeed,” Cole said. “The jobs generated and economic impacts are great, but what concerns me is the amount and level of the opposition … I support an alternative that is respectful of the community process.”

After Councilmember Chris Cate, David Alvarez and Todd Gloria proposed the conditions that affordable housing be on site and that the adaptive control system be a condition of the project, Cole changed her position and said Kilroy’s willingness to address those issues would allow her to support approving One Paseo.

“One Paseo passed because a majority of the council listened to facts and set aside fear-fueled hyperbole. The majority demonstrated tremendous leadership,” said Janette Littler, a Carmel Valley resident and a longtime supporter of One Paseo. “Unless lawsuits from Donahue Schriber prevent it, Carmel Valley residents should reap the benefits quickly … I am excited about Carmel Valley’s vibrant future and hope to see my neighbors — on both sides of this issue — on One Paseo’s Main Street soon.”

For Monday’s marathon meeting, a line formed outside City Hall long before the council chamber doors opened at 12:30 p.m. Opponents wore matching red T-shirts and carried signs. A large representation from the Carpenters Local 547 union wore matching orange shirts to signify their support of One Paseo and the 3,800 construction jobs the project will create.

Ken Farinsky of the opposition group What Price Main Street came downtown wheeling a cart loaded with thick binders filled with the 8,000 signatures against the project.

Farinsky said that his group is not NIMBYs and not anti-development.

He was hoping the council could get behind a smaller mixed-use project on the site, even if it meant sacrificing the extra $6 million in “extraordinary benefits” proposed by Kilroy.

“For us, the biggest benefit of all would be having a project we can live with,” Farinsky said.

City staff recommended approval of the project — noting that the applicant had addressed the 11 conditions mandated by the San Diego Planning Commission. Some of those conditions were reducing the building height from 170 feet to 150 feet and expanding the hours of the shuttle program, meant to be a proxy for the lack of public transportation in Carmel Valley.

Escobar-Eck said One Paseo has been massaged and refined over six years of community engagement, and the approved plan represented a 33 percent size reduction from the original proposal.

Both Mark Cafferty from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and Chanelle Hawken, the executive director of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, expressed support for One Paseo for encouraging job growth and addressing the city’s lack of housing near employment centers.

One Paseo supporters applauded the “beautiful” project as being a right choice for progress and growth, embracing a walkable community and providing more options to shop and dine.

Some residents said they were excited to have a place to walk to with their families. Resident Lawrence Schreiber said One Paseo gives Carmel Valley the heart it needs.

“I submit that One Paseo’s heart has clogged arteries,” countered Carmel Valley resident Marcia Blackmon, noting that Kilroy should not get credit for reducing a project 30 percent when the project is still three times larger than the land is entitled for.

The council heard from residents of East Bluff, directly across the street from One Paseo. Julie Hamilton from the East Bluff Community Association said that the impact to their neighborhood is monumental and will create a “channel wall of buildings,” not to mention the loss of 19 mature trees on their side of the street.

According to Kilroy’s engineer John Leppert, although 19 trees will be removed, they plan to create a sidewalk lined with trees on both sides that will “greatly enhance the pedestrian experience.” He said the 19 trees would be replaced and 29 new trees will be added.

Carol Klein, an East Bluff resident, said that she supported One Paseo because it is the latest in urban planning and development.

“You have heard from a lot of people against this project, but I represent the 30,000 silent residents who haven’t joined up with the $1.2 million effort by Del Mar Highlands to oppose this project,” Klein said.

Many comments centered on gridlock and greenhouse gas emissions, high-rises and high traffic. Residents worried about being stuck in “traffic jail” and feared that the proposed mitigations would not be enough. As Del Mar’s Felicity Mudgett said, it’s like “mitigating traffic Ebola with synchronized shots of Pepto-Bismol.”

Leppert said that the opponents stating that One Paseo will generate 23,000 new trips totally ignore the benefit of a mixed-use project: that not all average daily trips are the same and not all of the trips will be on the road at the same time.

The $3 million in private funding for the adaptive traffic-signal control system will be put to work at 42 intersections throughout Carmel Valley, he said, As the “choke point” is considered the freeway on-ramp, which will back up traffic once cars hit the ramp meters, Kilroy has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Caltrans to support the agency making improvements and mitigations within their jurisdiction.

The “spot zoning” referred to by Lightner reflected the new zoning that will be applied to One Paseo.

“You might not be able to stop the San Diego Chargers from becoming the LA Chargers, but you can stop San Diego communities from becoming LA communities,” said resident Steve Howe, noting that changing the zoning will open the floodgates for all future developers in the city.

After the meeting, Ben Snyder waited for the elevator to take him down 12 floors from council chambers. Snyder, who has lived in Carmel Valley since 1984, said he was “disgusted” by the City Council’s decision. As others expressed during the hearing, he said he worries about the “dangerous” precedent set by the rezone, which allows a wide range of commercial services — the only things not allowed to be built would be a TV or radio station or a mortuary.

Kilroy representatives, however, said they are looking forward to the enormous potential of One Paseo — to show how a smart-growth project can work, to create thousands of jobs and build hundreds of new homes, offer a first-of-its kind cycle track and give the community its Main Street.

“This is the growth the city needs to experience,” Escobar-Eck said. “Change is difficult. But this is the right project in the right place at the right time.”