One Paseo project not a ‘gift’ when it comes to public safety

The following letter was addressed to San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and submitted to this newspaper for publication.

Dear Mayor Filner:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for attending and speaking at the Carmel Valley Planning Board meeting this evening.

I live a quiet life here in Carmel Valley as an artist and photographer. But, it hasn’t always been this way. A few years ago I retired from a 30-year career with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Your Fire Chief and I were both in the 21st Fire Academy and, on Jan. 11 celebrated our 33rd anniversary as San Diego City Firefighters. My concerns about the One Paseo project go beyond those of a resident. My concerns are related to public safety. In my 30-year career with the City, 20 of those years were served at the rank of Fire Captain. Of those 20 years, nearly half were served right here in Carmel Valley supervising Fire Station 24/A. During those years, I saw a dramatic impact upon our ability to respond west bound on Del Mar Heights Road due to the ever increasing traffic. Of course, an increase in traffic is to be expected as a new community grows and develops. Still, there are several hours per day, five days per week, when responding Code 3, west bound on Del Mar Heights is nearly impossible due to traffic being stopped in all west bound lanes from El Camino Real to Interstate 5.

As you know, time is the enemy of the First Responder. When faced with traffic that has nowhere to yield, the siren is turned off until the way is clear. Seconds tick by and turn to minutes. If responding to a medical emergency, the patient’s condition continues to deteriorate. If responding to a rapidly progressing fire, lives and property placed at increasing risk with each passing minute. And it is not only the lives of the public that are threatened in this way. The longer an emergency goes unchecked, the more dangerous it will be to control and mitigate upon arrival. It is the lives of your fire and law enforcement personnel that will be increasingly threatened by unnecessary traffic delays. You should be aware also, that it is not only the corridor along Del Mar Heights Road that is at risk, for this road is the primary route of response for all emergencies not only to the west of the fire station, but to all those accessed via Interstate 5, both north and south of Del Mar Heights Road. This includes commercial and residential occupancies, and wildland areas accessed off of Via de la Valle to the north and Carmel Valley Road to the south. To say nothing of incidents on the freeway itself.

Words cannot describe the feelings of concern and frustration I have personally experienced while stopped in traffic and seeing a column of smoke grow larger in the distance. It was my hope to be able to speak at the meeting this evening. I am not opposed to developing the 23 acres of property owned by Kilroy Realty. I am opposed to their intent to build the 500,000 square feet their entitlement allows and then add an additional 1,000,000 square feet on top of that.

To make matters worse, the developer continues to portray this project as a “gift” to the citizens of Carmel Valley. At a Kilroy sponsored open house I attended recently, I was told by one of their traffic engineers that I had nothing to worry about with this project. There would be minimal impact on traffic because they were spending $6 million that they were not required to spend in order to install two stop lights and a right turn lane. He failed to convince me that installing stop lights was going to keep the traffic flowing on Del Mar Heights Road. First Responders must slow to a speed where they can stop if necessary, when approaching a controlled intersection. Adding two more stop lights, which will more than likely conflict with the ramp metering lights at Interstate 5 will not decrease response times. They will, however increase ingress and egress capability to and from One Paseo.

In conclusion, please let me say this. When I was told about this gift of two stop lights and a right turn lane I couldn’t help but think of another “gift” in our history. This is from the journal of Commander William Trent, entry, 24 May 1763, “... we gave them two blankets and one handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital...” describing a gift to the Ottawa Indians living outside of his fort. We must take a serious look at this project before allowing it to proceed. We can live without the gift from Kilroy Realty.

Stacy Silverwood, Captain,

SDFD - Retired