‘Village’ must wait for 5/56 project


Several other projects will rely on connectors

The empty 27-acre lot on Carmel Valley Road, future home to the Pacific Highlands Ranch Village Center, may remain empty for longer than expected.

As the planning process for the Village Center progressed, it was revealed that Proposition M mandated that the mixed-use residential and retail center not be built until the Interstate 5, Highway 56 connectors are complete.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board was told that some of the center could be built, including a boutique grocery store and some retail space, as soon as 2010.

But Jimmy Ayala, Pardee Homes’ director of community development, said that building the center in phases is unlikely.

“At this moment and with the way the economy has been, I don’t know when that will happen,” Ayala said, noting that he doesn’t think many tenants would be drawn to a mostly-empty center.

Instead, he said they’d continue to wait on the 5/56 project’s completion, which might not be until 2013 or beyond.

The vacant lot already gets plenty of use - people walk through it with their dogs, some have been spotted doing undisturbed tai chi. The teens have frequented it too and neighbors have reported the occasional leftover trash and beer cans.

When it gets built, the 27-acre site on the corner of Village Center Loop Road will have 286 residential units, shops, offices, restaurants and a movie theater. A three-acre parcel is also being set aside for a city library, which is yet to be designed.

Also hinging on the 5/56 connections is a community park next to Canyon Crest Academy and another possible Solana Beach School District campus.

Since October of 2008, around 40 permits have been pulled for new houses, said Ayala. Most of the building is going on in Manzanita Trail, east of the Portico neighborhood off Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway. Ayala said Pardee has built 1,065 units so far in Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Prop M mandate

In 1998, Anne Harvey, a Carmel Valley Community Planning Board member, was among those delegated to work on the city’s Pacific Highlands Ranch Ad Hoc Working Group.

The group included then planning board president Jan Fuchs, Pardee and the Sierra Club, the group active in making sure open space was preserved and that the community was walkable.

Their vision was for Pacific Highlands Ranch to be a new “small town” with multi-family homes, open space and facilities to fulfill their basic needs such as parks, schools and a village center.

“We wanted to create a community as self-contained as possible,” Harvey said.

Harvey said at that time, the flyover from Highway 56 west to Interstate 5 south hadn’t been proposed.

“All traffic had to get off the 56 in Carmel Valley, circle around, get jammed and find a way to the 5,” Harvey said.

She said they were told Carmel Valley had very wide streets, excellent for traffic storage. But that wasn’t ideal for the committee.

The committee thought a simple solution was to limit Pacific Highland Ranch’s building so Carmel Valley didn’t become inundated with all that traffic.

With Proposition M, which passed in 1998 with 53 percent of the vote, development in PHR can’t exceed 1,900 units until the connections are made between westbound Highway 56 and Interstate 5 north and 5 south with eastbound 56.

“Since then, it’s become infinitely more complicated,” Harvey said.

Last summer, former San Diego City Council president Scott Peters proposed changing the language to Prop M. Peters proposed that only the connection of northbound Interstate 5 with Highway 56 be required before the cap is lifted.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board did not support amending a proposition that was made in good faith with the voters. Without their endorsement, Peters did not pursue the issue.