One Paseo meeting in Carmel Valley draws large crowd, a variety of strong opinions voiced

By Karen Billing

Everyone has a passionate opinion on Kilroy’s proposed mixed-use development One Paseo in Carmel Valley — even new San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Filner stopped by the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s (CVCPB) overflow crowd of more than 400 people at Canyon Crest Academy on Jan. 24 to state his opposition to One Paseo. Filner said that Kilroy’s request to build larger than the 500,000 square feet they are entitled to amounted to breaking the contract agreement of the community plan.

“I don’t understand how anyone starts off with four times what the community plan says. I don’t know how you start with that,” Filner said. “It’s now reduced to 1.4 million, so now it’s three times what the plan says…I think this is an incredible expansion of what the community had in mind and I don’t see any reason to reform the contract that we had in mind with the city of San Diego.”

As it is an advisory board to the San Diego City Council, the Carmel Valley planning board will make a recommendation on One Paseo at its Feb. 28 meeting. The City Council will have the final say.

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who also does not have a say in the final project, also attended the meeting and expressed his dislike of One Paseo as it is currently designed.

“I personally believe that the project still does not fit the community character of Carmel Valley,” Roberts said. “We all understand what quality of life is and what quality of life isn’t. A project three times the zoning doesn’t work for this site.”

One member of the audience said she felt it was “disheartening” that the city and county representatives made their case against One Paseo before hearing any of the community input and also when they don’t have a vote in the project.

District 1 Councilmember Sherri Lightner was also in attendance, although she stated she could not take a stance on the project until it comes before City Council.

Those in favor of the project wore “I support One Paseo” stickers while opponents donned ones that read “Save Carmel Valley.” Frisco White, CV planning board chair, allowed 45 minutes of public comment for the project and 45 minutes against, and attempted to maintain a level of respect between the two sides.

The planning board was reviewing the revised One Paseo plans for the first time since seeing Kilroy’s draft environmental impact report (DEIR) plan version in May.

“Over the last five years we’ve had thoughtful, constructive discussions to ensure One Paseo fulfills the needs and goals of the community,” said Steve Scott, senior vice president of Kilroy.

Scott said they have heard and tried to address concerns about traffic, building heights, walkability, sustainability and bringing Trader Joe’s to Carmel Valley.

“You’d be surprised at the number of comments that wanted us to bring Trader Joe’s to the community,” Scott said, in response to some audience grumbling. “We feel our revised project is compatible and balanced with the community.”

The project has been reduced to 1.4 million square feet, down from 1.8 million in Kilroy’s DEIR proposal, and down from 2.1 million of the original proposal.

Kilroy has eliminated the hotel element and will provide 246,500 square feet of retail and 484,000 square feet of office space, including a “Main Street” and anchor tenant Trader Joe’s. The project also includes 608 residential units.

The revision lowered building heights and increased open space 10 percent; there are now over 5 acres of open space and 2 acres of public plazas, according to Kilroy.

“This is a new plan that we believe creates a very vibrant mixed use village,” said Robert Little, Kilroy’s vice president of development. “This lot has been vacant for 25 years and this is an opportunity to do something special for the community here.”

Board members said that no one is opposed to the project concept, calling the renderings “spectacular” and noting no one thinks just 500,000 square feet of office space at that location is the best thing for the community; it’s the size and the impacts that has most people worried.

Talking traffic

Project opponents and board member Laura Copic were skeptical about the findings of One Paseo’s traffic report.

Paired with intersection improvements and Kilroy’s pledge of $6 million toward a traffic signal synchronization system, it is Kilroy’s belief per the traffic study that the cumulative delay along Del Mar Heights Road will not change by more than one minute after traffic improvements are implemented and the project fully built out.

Of the 34 local intersections studied around the project, only five will experience a potential delay of more than five seconds in travel time during peak hours, according to Kilroy’s traffic study.

Planning board member Chris Moore asked how much more is “more than five seconds”—the data was not available that night and the board requested to see it at its next meeting.

According to Kilroy’s traffic study however, some intersections will improve and none will drop to an unacceptable level of service.

“Looking at this traffic study you would think there are very few impacts at all, just seconds of delay,” Copic said. “You’re saying the state-of-the-art signalization improvements will solve everything and I think that’s disingenuous.”

Denis Finigan, president of Urban Systems Associates who completed the traffic study, said the project looked at the corridor as a whole and sought to fix existing problems with the intersection improvements. As an example, they’ve created more storage room in lanes to avoid the cues of cars attempting to get on Interstate-5.

“It takes all the ‘dumb’ intersections along the corridor and turns them into ‘smart’ intersections, adjusting the traffic flow and phasing and adding capacity,” said Finigan. “Because you’re not starting and stopping, the traffic flows through faster and safer and that’s why the impacts are substantially mitigated.”

Bob Fuchs, founder of the opposition group What Price Main Street, still doubts that logic.

“Adaptive traffic control systems do not work when the traffic nears road capacity,” Fuchs said.

He reviewed a similar system in San Marcos and said at best it improved traffic delay by 13 percent and at worst worsened it by 4 percent.

Additionally he said the traffic study is not accurate because it does not take into account the full community plan at build-out, such as the extra 150,000 square feet that is entitled at Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

Torrey Pines Planning Board Chair Dennis Ridz echoed Fuchs’ traffic concerns, stating that if the project is approved it would take three and a half years to complete while improvements like the I-5 widening (which comes with a redesigned Del Mar Heights bridge) are not slated to begin until 2020-22 and would take 10 years to complete. SANDAG also has no transit planned to Carmel Valley until 2025.

“Can we take that kind of traffic jam for five to 10 years?” Ridz asked.

Board member Anne Harvey also pointed out that the project’s mitigations would change the way Carmel Valley’s streetscape looks, with pavement stretched as far as it can go.

“Every intersection that you’re going to ‘fix’ you’re making less safe and less conducive to walking and biking,” Harvey said.

Resident Walter Carlin said when he looks at the way traffic “oozes” down Del Mar Heights currently, he has concerns about emergency vehicles being able to get to their destinations in a timely manner if One Paseo is built.

“Traffic is going to be a mess and that is going to have ramifications and some will be very serious,” Carlin said.

Kilroy also maintains its project will have three times the parking of Del Mar Highlands Town Center across the street with 3,688, and shared office spaces opening up during peak times after work hours and on weekends.

Elizabeth Schreiber, general manager at Del Mar Highlands Town Center, expressed concerns about the project’s density and scale in comparison to the Highlands. The Highlands is 270,000 square feet, compared to One Paseo’s proposed 1.4 million, seven times as dense she said.

Schreiber also objected to the statement that One Paseo would have three times more parking than her center. She said of One Paseo’s 3,688 stalls, 1,000 would be reserved for the residents and during office work hours Monday through Friday, it subtracts an additional 1,500, leaving 1,000 stalls in comparison to the Highlands’ 1,603.

“And I know you’re frustrated with our parking,” Schreiber added.

Both sides weigh in

In addition to their concerns about traffic, opponents blasted One Paseo for its “ugly, high rise” effect on a low rise neighborhood, and said that there were no other office buildings as high as eight-stories in the area. The opponents said it is unfair to use Trader Joe’s as a justification to build the entire center.

“Trader Joe’s would easily fit in 500,000 square feet,” one neighbor said.

Carmel Valley resident Gabriele Prater took issue with Kilroy saying that the project was derived from what the community wants and that the community inspired it.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Prater said, noting that they had a “massive and aggressive”, “bogus PR campaign” that did not have an objective discussion of negative impacts.

“There is no community support for this project.” Prater said, stating she has taken part in an opposition effort that has gathered 3,000 signatures.

Project supporter Janette Littler offered a different point of view, saying that she has worked and met with Kilroy since early last year and expressed a dislike for the 150-room hotel, which was removed in the revised plans.

“There’s an idea that they haven’t listened and it’s my opinion that they have,” Littler said. “They’ve thoughtfully considered objections and concerns. They are part of the community and I want them here.”

Supporters stepped up to state that there are people in Carmel Valley who want One Paseo. They said the project will bring tax dollars and jobs to the area, enhance their businesses and property values. Supporters also praised Kilroy’s focus on smart growth and green, forward thinking and how they are offering needed services and amenities to accommodate a growing population and giving Carmel Valley more of a town center, more than a “strip mall surrounded by asphalt.”

“Hearing this no growth attitude is really rather disappointing,” said resident Richard Copeland. “That attitude of not being willing to have another person in front of you at the grocery store or another car in front of you on the road,” Copeland said. “I’m willing to share the paradise we have and we can if we have nice, intelligent growth.”

One woman said she doesn’t like being told what Carmel Valley’s character is and she wonders why it can’t be something different. She said it can feel very isolating living in Carmel Valley as there is not much for people to do in her under-40 age group.

“[With One Paseo] hopefully life will get a little more interesting and I can feel more connected to the community,” she said. “I want somewhere to go.”

Torrey Pines sophomore Omar Rodriguez, open-minded and wearing both “Save Carmel Valley” and “I support Main Street” stickers, said he needs some place for him and his friends to go too. He said he can’t afford movies at Cinepolis and says they usually just end up hanging out near Rimel’s in the Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

Filner’s statement that the community plan was a contract resonated with project opponents, who didn’t think that Kilroy has the right to demand more than the plan allows or change it.

But One Paseo supporters argued that community plan amendments have been made before and pointed out that the plan was written in 1975 and things have changed— “perhaps it’s time for a fresh look,” one woman said.

“The last thing I want to see is another office building that looks like High Bluff Drive,” said resident Steve Burton.

Burton said he loves Carmel Valley and they need more options to keep people in their own community. “I don’t want to get on a freeway, I want to be a part of my community right here,” he said.

Resident Comischell Rodriguez said she hears the negatives and the arguments against the project, but feels there are elements of One Paseo’s plan that can be worked on.

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Rodriguez said. “Don’t give up on this project, we need a heart in Carmel Valley.”

White asked that when Kilroy representatives return to the CV planning board at its Feb. 28 meeting, they present their reduced project alternative from the DEIR, which reduces the original proposal by 50 percent, offers a mixed-use project with no “Main Street” concept, more of a traditional strip retail center surrounded by surface parking.

Board member Christian Clews said he is sympathetic to Kilroy, that it has a right to build on the property and to try to make money, but he said they also need to be good neighbors and make concessions to get the project to be more palatable to all.

“We’re looking at 10 pounds of project in a five-pound bag,” Clews said. “You have more than an uphill battle as it stands here. I want you to do something there and you’ve got some great ideas, but as it stands it’s not going to fly.”

The Feb. 28 meeting will be held at Canyon Crest Academy at 7 p.m.