One Paseo referendum supporters deliver boxes of petitions

Joe LaCava, chair of the San Diego Community Planners Committee, San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner and Ken Farinsky of What Price Main Street deliver referendum signatures.
Joe LaCava, chair of the San Diego Community Planners Committee, San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner and Ken Farinsky of What Price Main Street deliver referendum signatures.
( / Photo courtesy of Melissa Jacobs)

Backers of the One Paseo referendum movement delivered boxes of more than 55,000 signatures to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters on Wednesday, March 25, seeking a reversal of the San Diego City Council’s recent decision on the 1.45-million-square-foot project or to put the development to a vote of the people.

San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner, one of the referendum effort’s strongest supporters, joined representatives from the Carmel Valley and Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Boards, Protect San Diego Neighborhoods, What Price Main Street and Mitigate One Paseo as they delivered the signatures on the March 25 deadline.

Lightner said she applauded the efforts of community leaders who have worked to raise awareness about the “massive project.”

“I was disappointed when City Council disregarded the concerns of four planning groups and thousands of residents,” said Lightner, who was one of two dissenting votes on the One Paseo project.

She said when the council “ignored” the community planning process, all communities in the city were put at risk and it set a precedent for future “massive developments.”

“The petition sends a strong message that approval of this project affects every neighborhood in the city,” Lightner said.

“This referendum started about a development but it’s really become about representation in the city, whether the community should have a voice … whether planning boards’ decisions should matter,” said Ken Farinsky of What Price Main Street. “Through this petition, the voice of San Diegans will be heard.”

Farinsky said both volunteers and paid signature gatherers were used in the referendum effort.

Although the group stated the 55,000 number at the afternoon press conference, by the end of the day that number had grown to 61,325.

In order to qualify, the petition must be signed by 5 percent of San Diego registered voters, or 33,224 registered voters. The city clerk has 30 days to verify the signatures and certify the results. If the number of signatures is found to be sufficient, the clerk will present the petition to the City Council and it will have 10 business days to rescind its approval of the project or place the development on the ballot for a citywide vote.

Lightner said Carmel Valley is not against development, but community residents want a project they can support on that land. She said she hopes the council will be able to consider a reduced-scale project that better fits the neighborhood’s character.

The petition-gathering process has not been without controversy, as One Paseo supporters and opponents each accused the other of dishonest tactics and misrepresenting the facts.

According to Rachel Laing, representing Kilroy, the developer hired canvassers from a variety of firms to provide information to potential signers of the referendum and make sure they were not misled.

Kilroy canvassers also offered people the opportunity to sign a rescission form to withdraw their signatures if they felt they had been gathered under false pretenses.

Kilroy delivered 29,550 signature-withdrawal forms for the referendum petition to the city clerk on Wednesday. The number of withdrawals submitted to the clerk is ten times the number of withdrawals turned in for the recent minimum wage referendum. It will have to be verified by the clerk if all of those signatures were in fact on both the referendum petition and the rescission form.

“Clearly San Diegans in large numbers felt compelled to withdraw their signatures from the referendum petition once they learned more about One Paseo,” Laing said. “We’re thankful so many San Diegans chose to listen to and consider the facts about this important and iconic smart growth project—and took the time to rescind their signatures if they felt they had been misled.”