Pacific Highlands Ranch ‘frozen in time?’ Board hopes to spur growth

By Suzanne Evans


Manjeet Ranu, Pacific Highlands Ranch (PHR) representative and Carmel Valley Planning Board vice chairman, sought to free his community from stagnating development, which he said is “frozen in time,” at the sub-committee’s Dec. 3 meeting. The group met to discuss the planning board’s position on revisions to Proposition M, which limits the sub-area’s growth.

Discussing the lack of schools, parks or markets in the community, located at the eastern junction of Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley Roads, the subcommittee hopes to revise the language that limits development contained in Prop. M. The law states, development “shall not exceed 1,900 dwelling units until such time that ramps for westbound 56 connecting with I-5 North, and I-5 South connecting with eastbound SR-56 are connected and operational.”

Also present at the meeting to consider PHR’s plight were CV board chair Frisco White, regional issues co-chairs Anne Harvey and Jan Fuchs, board member and attorney Dave Bartick, CV board member Scott Tillson, Beth Fisher, vice president of community development for Pardee Homes, Dennis Ridz, Torrey Pines board chair, Del Mar Mesa board member Elizabeth Rabbit and Mesa board vice chair Paul Metcalf.

Tillson said amending Prop. M’s language would require another submission to voters on the June 6, 2010, ballot and would have to reach the city clerk by the Jan. 8, 2010, deadline for consideration as a potential ballot measure. The rules committee chair would then need to agree to put the measure on the docket.

“My focus is to get PHR up and running so housing supports infrastructure,” White said. He said he hopes to avoid building “too many rooftops without infrastructure as was done in Carmel Valley and Mira Mesa.”

Tillson agreed that a “significant body of opinion wants to see PHR developed in a timely way, with commercial, retail, and facilities.” But he said there is not enough population to support parks and not enough students for schools.

Beth Fisher, vice president of community development for Pardee Homes, was present at the meeting and confirmed 300 permits are in progress in PHR. Ranu said a total of 1,700 houses have been built so far and Dave Bartick noted units are “nearly up to the (1,900) cap now, (but) they could build a small 50,000 square feet grocery store if they want to.” But he noted, “There is no guarantee by raising the cap that infrastructure would be built.”

White asked if the 1,900 cap is “unrealistic in today’s community,” and suggested disassociating the park from the city of San Diego. “Forget the connectors,” regional issues co-chair Fuchs said, “What does PHR want?”

“We wanted a park and ice cream and to be able to walk across the street to shop,” Ranu lamented, noting the small, dense areas of some of the PHR properties.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Tillson cautioned, noting the Prop. M language that has stunted PHR growth until freeway connectors are in place. “At the time (voters passed it), there was no idea of impacts to the community (in terms of ramp heights and noise). There was no intent to deny PHR their facilities.”

Tillson suggested adjusting transportation control measures to establish thresholds tied to transportation infrastructure, projects, parks, roads, libraries and other facilities before development proceeds.

He said he has noticed high average daily trips of vehicles currently jamming Del Mar Heights Road, but increasing significantly west of El Camino Real. This indicates that traffic is not coming only from PHR, Tillson concluded.

The city of Del Mar recently conducted a similar traffic study as cars traveling west on Del Mar Heights Road sped onto and jammed Crest Road as a shortcut to I-5 North.

Ridz told the sub-committee that Torrey Pines, located next to and bearing the brunt of a suggested 70-foot freeway ramp flyover, objected only to the flyover ramp, not necessarily to the other freeway connector options.

At the Carmel Valley board’s Nov. 10 meeting, PHR residents urged the board to take a position on I-5/SR-56 freeway connector ramps, seeking to “de-link” PHR from the growth stifling Prop. M.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Tillson said, noting the connector draft environmental impact report would not be ready until summer of 2010, followed by an evaluation period of 60 days.

Tillson said he would prepare a report for the CV planning board’s Dec. 8 meeting, explaining the board’s position on the connector project and arguing the merits for revising Prop. M language. However, the board did not have time to discuss the connector issue at its Dec. 8 meeting and deferred the discussion to a future meeting.