Lawsuits filed against One Paseo, city over ‘flawed’ environmental review

(Karen Billing)

As the San Diego city clerk continues the process of tallying and verifying signatures on the One Paseo referendum petition as well as the countering signature withdrawals, two separate lawsuits were filed last week against the city and Kilroy Realty: one by Donahue Schriber, the owner of Del Mar Highlands, and a second by a trio of community groups.

One lawsuit was filed April 8 by the Alliance for Responsible Development, the East Bluff Community Association and Mitigate One Paseo.

The community groups allege that One Paseo’s environmental documents are “riddled with flaws and inconsistencies” and that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) does not provide the necessary analysis of impacts, alternatives and mitigation measures.

Donahue Schriber’s suit, filed by John Ponder of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton on the same day, also challenges the validity of the report and its “flawed” traffic study, which they believe under-counted traffic generation rates.

“In the wake of the City Council’s decision to move forward with One Paseo, Donahue Schriber evaluated all options and concluded that, unless scaled back, the project would have dire impacts on our center. We have always been interested in seeing the site developed. We are open to mixed use and believe it would create great synergy with our center. However, we are not in support of anything that will negatively impact the community, including our over 80 shops and restaurants,” said Elizabeth Schreiber, vice president of operations and development for Donahue Schriber.

“We have always had grave concerns about the traffic, which we believe was one of the issues not adequately analyzed in the environmental document; therefore, we filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the One Paseo project. For us, any consideration of a project on that site, especially one larger than the entitlement, should be based on a thorough and accurate analysis of the impacts generated. The current One Paseo, with more than 28,000 average daily trips, is unacceptable.”

Donahue Schriber’s suit contends that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving the One Paseo project and its EIR, and failed to follow the mandatory procedural requirements of CEQA, adequately evaluate the environmental impacts of the project, adequately evaluate feasible alternatives, and impose adequate and feasible mitigation measures to reduce the project’s environmental impacts.

Also, the suit challenges that there was no substantial evidence to support the project’s Statement of Overriding Considerations and that the city violated the planning and zoning law by failing to require the project’s consistency with the city’s General Plan, the Carmel Valley Community Plan, and the Carmel Valley Employment Center Precise Plan, among other items.

Schriber said that when these issues come to light in a court of law, they are confident they will prevail in their efforts to protect the Carmel Valley community.

“Unfortunately, frivolous lawsuits like this have become standard for any significant project in California,” said Rachel Laing, a spokesperson for Kilroy. “One Paseo underwent extraordinarily careful analysis, and we’re completely confident that the city’s extremely thorough Environmental Impact Report on the project will withstand the court’s scrutiny.”

Carmel Valley’s William Bibb is the president of the Alliance for Responsible Development, a group that formed in the past month to target these types of major developments city- and statewide. An environmentalist with a background in environmental law, Bibb’s concern is that the City Council let economic interests weigh more heavily than environmental impacts.

Bibb said that developers should not be allowed to create density without providing access to an established network of public transportation. He said true “smart growth” is building developments along existing transit corridors to reduce traffic congestion and harmful greenhouse gas emissions and air particulates.

“Further, our state is facing an historic drought of Biblical proportions,” Bibb said. “It is clear that the necessary water infrastructure does not exist to cope with fantasies of unlimited growth.”

Bibb said he feels sometimes like Paul Revere shouting, “Climate change is coming! Climate change is coming!” but he believes that the situation is dire and the city can no longer keep building unsustainable developments; the environment is “the most precious resource we have in San Diego.”

“We all have to fight this — this is the fight of our lives,” Bibb said. “There is no hope, there is no change, unless citizens take action.”

Kilroy has maintained that it is committed to building a sustainable development. The company is the owner and manager of the largest portfolio of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified commercial space in North County, and One Paseo will feature green buildings, cool roofs, electric-vehicle charging stations, and energy- and water- efficiency features.

One Paseo’s transportation demand program includes shuttle services to make up for the lack of public transit, bike lockers, electrical charging stations and priority parking spaces for ride sharing.

To mitigate traffic, Kilroy is also providing $3 million in private funding for the adaptive control system that will be put into work at 42 intersections throughout Carmel Valley and has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Caltrans to support the agency making improvements within its jurisdiction at the Interstate 5 interchange.

“My biggest concern is that the City Council’s vote totally negated the vibrant community planning process that took place in Carmel Valley,” said Janie Emerson, president of the East Bluff Community Association, the residential neighborhood across the street from the proposed One Paseo. “This should be a major concern to every resident in the city of San Diego. If our City Council can totally ignore the wishes of the community and completely trample their community planning process as it did here, then this can happen in any neighborhood.”

The deadline for the signature counting and verification process is April 24. If at least 33,224 petition signatures are valid, then the San Diego City Council will have to repeal the project’s approval or place the development on next June’s ballot for a citywide vote.