Planning board opposes proposed Del Mar school district childcare facility at Torrey Hills School

By Karen Billing

The Torrey Hills Community Planning Board is not in favor of the Del Mar Union School District’s proposal to build a new 13,000-square-foot Child Development Center (CDC) facility at Torrey Hills Elementary School. The board voted to send a letter to the district stating its opposition due to the increased traffic and safety concerns a new facility would bring.

According to a letter from board chair Kathryn Burton, there is a serious traffic issue at Calle Mar de Mariposa and East Ocean Air Drive that will only get worse after the construction of apartments and townhomes on the streets — 384 units of the Garden Communities project currently under construction on the corner expected to be first occupied in June this year and an MBK Homes development next door of 100 units expected to be finished in October.

“Del Mar Union School District is arriving late to the traffic party,” Burton wrote, noting it is “unconscionable” for the district to consider adding more traffic to the neighborhood.

The proposal is part of the facilities master plan process that the district is currently undergoing. One of the goals of the plan is to find a permanent home for the district’s CDC and pre-school, currently housed at Ashley Falls School and Sycamore Ridge School.

Building a new facility would free up space to help tackle low enrollment at Ashley Falls and predicted crowded conditions at Sycamore Ridge due to the build-out of Pacific Highlands Ranch. As planning board member Suzanne Hall explained, Torrey Hills was selected as the district’s enrollment is projected to go down in the next 10 years and as one of the largest district campuses, there is space to expand.

The master plan also includes plans to improve circulation at Torrey Hills by opening up a new access drive, expanding the parking lot and having staggered start times for the CDC.

Hall reminded the board that the entire plan is contingent on the district obtaining the funds through a bond or parcel tax.

As a neighbor who lives across the street from the school, planning board vice chair Brad Fagan said he has real concerns about safety and emergency plans for the area as Calle del Mariposa is already filled with parked cars all the way up and down the street. At around 2:30 p.m., when school lets out, he said it is so hectic he has seen cars driving on the sidewalk.

“When we continue to bombard our community with a little thing here and a little thing there, the impacts on the community at some point are going to be unsafe,” Fagan said. “It’s already fairly unsafe.”

Hall said there are a lot of nuances involved in the district’s plan for a permanent home for the CDC and if you talk to 10 people, you could hear 10 different opinions on what the best plan is. Hall said her opinion is that the district needs to eliminate half of the CDC program and only continue to operate what the district is legally required to have. The district could restructure the facility at Ashley Falls to accommodate the population the district is required to serve, rather than spend taxpayer money to build a new facility at Torrey Hills School.