Torrey Pines planning board members question One Paseo’s impact on emergency response times

By Karen Billing

Torrey Pines Community Planning Board members voiced concerns at a Nov. 14 meeting about the impact the traffic generated by the proposed One Paseo project will have on public safety in their community.

Board Chair Dennis Ridz expressed frustration about the lack of response the board has received over its concerns regarding One Paseo’s “unmitigated, significant impact on public service.” Ridz said that no analysis has been provided in the environmental impact report regarding the impact of traffic congestion on Del Mar Heights Road on response time for emergency medical services providers from San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Station 24.

“I find this process of dealing with both city officials and staff and Kilroy basically to be an abject failure,” Ridz said.

Ridz said the Torrey Pines board has asked Kilroy representatives to attend its meetings but they have declined. (Kilroy Realty Corporation is the developer of the One Paseo project.)

According to Kilroy representatives, they prefer to work with the designated planning group for the project, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

“We have and will continue to work through the process for One Paseo with the recognized planning group for Carmel Valley,” wrote Kilroy in a letter to Ridz. “As you know, there have been numerous public meetings on the project both this year, 2013, and last year, 2012. There have been no changes to the project since the last public presentation to the Carmel Valley Planning Board in early August 2013 and we have been working very diligently to respond to your DEIR [Draft Environmental Impact Report] comment letter dated May 29, 2012.”

While the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board is not the planning board of note for the project, Ridz said he still feels the Torrey Pines group’s voice needs to be heard.

“We, as a community, are directly impacted by what happens in Carmel Valley,” Ridz said.

The Torrey Pines planning board held its special meeting on Nov. 14 to address the public comment period for One Paseo’s re-circulated EIR [Environmental Impact Report], which includes two scaled-back alternatives of the proposed project that weren’t included in the original document.

One alternative is half of the reduced project, about 800,000 square feet of retail, residential and office space. The other alternative is an 80,000-square-foot retail amenity.

The Torrey Pines board did not talk much about the alternatives at the Nov. 14 meeting, but the board did set up an ad hoc committee to submit comments on the alternatives by the Dec. 10 deadline.

The board’s main focus Nov. 14 was a discussion on the board’s public safety concerns, particularly emergency response times that board members believe will be hindered by One Paseo’s traffic clogging Del Mar Heights Road.

Ridz said Del Mar Heights Road is the Torrey Pines’ area’s “emergency lifeline” as emergency services come to them from Station 24 near Torrey Pines High School in Carmel Valley (east of the I-5). From 1973 to 1993, Fire Station 24 was located on the Torrey Pines side of the I-5 on Mango Drive, but it moved to Carmel Valley as that community started to develop more.

The Del Mar Fire Department’s station at the Del Mar Fairgrounds does not have an ambulance and the closest brush fire engines — other than Station 24’s — are located in La Jolla Village and Rancho Santa Fe.

Ridz said the generally accepted standard for emergency response times is 8 minutes, 90 percent of the time.

Through project traffic studies, the public was told that travel time from One Paseo to the Interstate 5 ramps may increase by one to two minutes and the level of service during evening and morning rush hour will be rated the worst, a level of service “F.”

Kilroy has pledged to provide traffic improvements, such as synchronized traffic lights to mitigate traffic impacts, but Ridz said he is doubtful about their efficacy and feels those extra minutes of delay could lead to loss of life.

Ridz cited the American Heart Association’s position that a victim of cardiac arrest’s chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without defibrillation and advanced life support intervention.

Torrey Pines board member Dee Rich expressed concern about the schools located west of I-5, such as Del Mar Hills and Del Mar Heights and their playing fields used for recreation and organized sports. She said she was angry that the city hasn’t encouraged a solution that would make it easier for ambulances to get to children in case of emergency.

The Torrey Pines board members agreed to send a letter to District 1 Councilmember Sherri Lightner saying that they want her support on these public safety issues.

“There needs to be some solution, no matter where the project goes, that we have response times that maintain the safety of our citizens,” Rich said.

According to Bernie Turgeon, a city community planner, the city’s development services department plans to release the final EIR in February or March 2014. A recommendation from the Carmel Valley planning board will come before the planning commission hearing, which could be scheduled in April or May.

“The project is on the fast track to the planning commission in my opinion,” Turgeon said.