What will really save Carmel Valley?

If Del Mar and Solana Beach were to have a child, I think it would be named Carmel Valley. Master planned from its inception, Carmel Valley has been growing up for the past 35 years to become one of San Diego’s most desired communities for young professionals to raise their families.

So, why are some residents worried that Carmel Valley needs to be “saved”? Saved from what?

I have attended a few of the last Carmel Valley Planning Board meetings to find out for myself, and it seems there is fear about the effects of a proposed multi-use project called One Paseo that includes office buildings, residential units and a high-end shopping center with community venues such as a movie theatre with a stage and an upscale entertainment arena for bocce ball and bowling. The proposed One Paseo project is located adjacent to the Del Mar Highlands shopping center, complementing the established businesses and restaurants there with a “Main Street” for Carmel Valley.

Kilroy Realty owns the land, and in my opinion, wants to do more than just develop office buildings and make business — they want to make a positive impression on our upscale community by giving Carmel Valley a heart and providing an expansion to our favorite place to congregate for pleasure — at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real.

So, why are so many worried that Carmel Valley needs saving from more of a good thing? I’m confused.

Carmel Valley is in its final stages of growth, and it is only fitting for those on our planning board to exercise caution when granting blessings for development. The planning board, comprised of a solid variety of Carmel Valley residents, represents the community on all issues related to growth and development and truly seems to care. But, unfortunately, the decision to grant Carmel Valley the proposed Main Street at One Paseo is out of their hands. The real decision maker on this project is the City of San Diego.

At one of the meetings I attended with my son, I heard a stern message from Supervisor Dave Roberts, a resident of Solana Beach, and a dramatic speech from Mayor Filner — both political leaders opposed without reservation, the project based solely on principle of square footage development. I was stunned. To my grateful heart, our council representative Sherri Lightner took the rightful stance of “non-opinion” until she hears the planning board and community desires and recommendations. At the same meeting, residents were divided into two groups — one there to “save” Carmel Valley from the development and one in favor of building the One Paseo project.

We have come a long way as a community, and I would argue that Carmel Valley understands the meaning of change more than most. Since 2000, I have witnessed developer Pardee build prime residential projects and contribute to the construction of five new schools, a fire station and various community parks. Residents have worked together to iron out the wrinkles of constant growth by becoming involved at their local schools and establishing organizations to support Carmel Valley’s infrastructure with road signage, traffic lights and more. Together, we have proven to ourselves that change and growth, while not always pleasant, can be successful if we work together for improvement. Do we really need “saved” from growth and more progress? Don’t we deserve it to ourselves to allow the last bit of our Master Planned community to be something that unites us further? I believe that the residents of Carmel Valley have the experience and education to evolve gracefully.

What I also learned is that Kilroy could simply build their office buildings and call it a day — they have the permits. But, they are taking a look at the macro view of our beloved Carmel Valley by thinking outside of the box of corporate buildings and offering our community a crown jewel that complements the rest of what we have to offer ourselves. From what I can tell, they are hoping to enhance Carmel Valley and provide a project the whole town can be proud of.

Traffic is the major concern, as with any new development, but the city is working with Kilroy to insure that our traffic signals, road design and signage is state of the art and will be cohesive with the imminent I-5 freeway expansion. Questions regarding traffic were addressed at the last meeting I attended, and while the questions and answers were somewhat belabored, I was satisfied that our master planners are asking good questions and those questions are being addressed — many with Kilroy’s dime.

I have raised three children in Carmel Valley alongside many thoughtful parents. Together, we have worked to create a protected “paradise” where we look out for one another and desire the best opportunities, sports and education money and effort can buy. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty or challenge the “norm” to make it better. This is why I believe that the message of “saving” Carmel Valley is misleading. Let’s save Carmel Valley by acknowledging that with a Main Street — a heart — we will be enabled to grow up and stand alongside other established communities.

Comischell Bradley-Rodriguez