Torrey Hills planning board pulls funding for Carmel Valley easement enhancement

By Karen Billing

The Torrey Hills Community Planning Board decided once and for all that a simple landscaping project should not cost in excess of $450,000 and voted to pull its funding from the city’s coffers for an easement enhancement under the SDG&E lines at the crest of East Ocean Air Drive.

The money, from Torrey Hills donations and maintenance assessment district (MAD) funds has been in the city’s budget since 2007. At its May 20 meeting, the Torrey Hills board voted to use $150,000 of those funds to get the project to a point where it can be taken over by the MAD, planted and maintained, minus the grading, boulders and other decorative features.

“The whole idea was to get it to stop looking like a dirt lot, spruce it up a bit,” said Torrey Hills board vice chair Guy Ravad. “I think the public works department can do that with $150,000 and return the remaining $300,000 back to the MAD budget…It prevents community assets from being wasted.”

From January to March, Ravad said the board talked about ways to get the projected $441,000 price tag down but could not get solid answers from the city as to where the money was going and why items cost so much. Even as they “hacked” at the plans, removing decomposed granite paving, boulders, a bench, shade structure dry creek and trees, the project would still cost $279,000 due to soft costs such as consultant work, a site development permit and the environmental process.

“We were really not getting to pick the project we wanted,” said Ravad, noting all that was really left over was some plantings and no irrigation.

Torrey Hills Planning Board Chair Kathryn Burton said she was relieved the board could finally get some “closure” on this ongoing issue.