CARMEL VALLEY — Members of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board received some advice from Mike Aguirre, former city attorney and mayoral candidate, as they prepared to comment on a draft environmental impact report for a mixed-use development at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real.
“You’ve got to understand the nature of the game you’re in,” Aguirre told board members at a Nov. 14 meeting dedicated to discussing One Paseo, a controversial “neighborhood village” that would include retail, residential, office and open space on an approximately 24-acre lot.
The planning board is attempting to find a solution to what it believes will be reduced emergency vehicle response times as a result of increased traffic on the already-impacted streets surrounding the proposed project.
“You’re going down the road of how to make it work,” Aguirre said. “It’s all good stuff but you have to look at it systematically. … There’s no reason to change the zoning. Zoning is there for a reason. If there’s no zoning change, there’s no project.”
Aguirre recommended the board use the Public Records Act to obtain all possible information and to “get litigation going early.”
“It’s not that these people are bad,” he said. “It’s that they’re very smart. … You are house kitties and they are alley cats. You don’t have to be mean. You don’t have to be nasty. But building something that’s four times bigger than what’s allowed doesn’t even make sense.”
The site is zoned for about 510,000 square feet of office space.
The original proposal called for about 1.8 million gross square feet of development with retail and office buildings, a 150-room hotel and more than 600 multifamily residential units.
It features public open spaces, internal roadways and parking structures. Some buildings were proposed to be 10 stories high.
In response to concerns that the project was too large, the developer, Kilroy Realty Corporation, revised its plans. A recirculated draft EIR with three alternatives is available for public comment until Dec. 10.
New options are a 1.4 million-square-foot project with no hotel and smaller dwelling units and commercial spaces, an 817,000-square-foot project with no hotel, fewer dwelling units and reduced office and retail space and 80,000 square feet of development that includes a 30,000-square-foot market and 50,000 square feet for retail.
Kilroy favors the largest option because it is the only one that maintains the goal of creating “a Main Street in Carmel Valley.”
Although the Torrey Pines board, which represents about 7,300 people east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds to Sorrento Valley, has several concerns with the proposal, its main opposition is reduced response times for emergency vehicles due to increased traffic.
“Del Mar Heights Road is the lifeline into our fire station,” Dennis Ridz, board chairman, said. “Adding 26,000 daily trips will only cripple it.”
Retired fire Capt. Stacy Silverwood, who commanded the nearby Station 24, said the draft EIR “seems to address only the needs of One Paseo.”
“My concern is for all first responders having to negotiate around One Paseo,” he said. “Lights and sirens mean absolutely nothing when there is nowhere for traffic to go.
“Station 24 was built … to serve the communities of Carmel Valley and Torrey Pines, the I-5 corridor and all of our automatic aid agreements based on traffic from planned and permitted development,” Silverwood said. “If we deviate much from that now, you had better plan all of your emergencies for that 12 midnight to 6 a.m. window.”
Torrey Pines board members are also frustrated with what they say is a lack of support from the city of San Diego and Sherri Lightner, their City Council representative.
Ridz said he invited representatives from the city’s Development Services Department and Kilroy to attend the Nov. 14 meeting but they declined.
“We can’t get the ‘experts’ on this to give a presentation on the alternatives,” he said. “We haven’t gotten the help this community deserves.”
The response from Kilroy to an email asking why the invitation was declined noted that in May 2012 the “Torrey Pines Planning Group provided their Board’s concern about response times in their DEIR comment letter. One Paseo has been reduced significantly in scale since that time. The alternatives analysis is currently out for public review (and is) in the process of being addressed by the City of San Diego.”
Jill Esterbrooks, communications director for Lightner, said the councilwoman wasn’t invited to the meeting but a staff member was there.
“Sherri is always interested in hearing from residents and other stakeholders who will be impacted by development in their neighborhoods and communities,” Esterbrooks wrote in an email.
“However, because this is a land use issue that is coming to full council next year for a vote, it isn’t appropriate for her to take an advocacy position on the proposed development project before that public hearing.”
The planning board drafted a letter to send to Lightner but some members said it listed complaints and didn’t include a call to action. The board opted against sending the letter, which Ridz said he wouldn’t have signed anyway.
“It’s not strong enough,” he said. “It needs a punch line, which is basically, ‘Damn it, do something.’”
With limited time to comment on the recirculated draft EIR, the board voted to form an ad hoc committee to create a response.
Spoken like a true attorney, Aguirre offered some additional advice. “Get yourself a lawyer right now,” he said. “Start plotting it out.”
He also suggested board members work closely with the Carmel Valley planning group, in whose jurisdiction the project is located.
Ridz said the board is not allowed to raise money, which would be needed for legal costs.
“Find a cheap lawyer,” Aguirre said. “Kilroy has spent $1 million in lobbying.”
Ridz said he has already tried to team up with the Carmel Valley group. He also said his board has offered a solution.
“Build a fire and medical emergency station in the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board area,” he said. “But we know that’s not going to happen.”
Visit www.onepaseo.com for additional project information or to comment on the draft EIR.