CARMEL VALLEY — A mixed-use development slated for the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real will negatively affect emergency response times, according to an April 14 memo from Javier Mainar, fire chief for the city of San Diego.
San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, “and concerned community members have independently asked the Fire-Rescue Department to analyze whether the additional traffic associated with the proposed One Paseo development in Del Mar Heights will have a negative impact on emergency unit response times,” Mainar wrote.
“The short answer to this question is, ‘Yes,’” he stated.
One Paseo is described by developer Kilroy Realty Corporation as a “neighborhood village” on an approximately 24-acre lot.
The original proposal called for about 1.8 million gross square feet of development with retail and office buildings, a 150-room hotel, more than 600 multifamily residential units, 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, Kilroy revised the plans. The developer’s preferred option is a 1.4-million-square-foot project with no hotel and smaller dwelling units and commercial spaces because it maintains the goal of creating “a Main Street in Carmel Valley.”
Mainar noted current response times do not meet the 7.5-minute city standard “and it is expected that not all added traffic impacts associated with the project may be mitigated.”
But, he added, the response times in the community are consistent with those in other areas “due primarily to a lack of enough fire resources distributed” throughout the city.
A department review of the draft environmental impact report indicates traffic counts on some streets surrounding One Paseo are currently “higher than desirable,” the memo states, and those numbers are expected to rise if the development moves forward as proposed.
While Kilroy is proposing improvements to roadways and traffic controls to address the projected increase, “it remains to be seen” whether the planned upgrades will fully address the impacts, especially because jurisdiction lies with the state Department of Transportation and not the city or developer, Mainar wrote.
“Moreover, it is not clear from the DEIR documents whether the planned improvements will allow for emergency vehicles to bypass traffic that is moving slowly or at a standstill along Del Mar Heights Road, a major artery and response travel path,” the memo states.
Mainar concludes by noting it is unclear whether planned mitigations will “fully resolve the impacts” of the anticipated traffic increase from One Paseo.
“As the fire chief acknowledged in his memo, just like communities throughout the city, Carmel Valley is affected by a citywide deficiency in fire resources,” Steve Scott, senior vice president of Kilroy Realty, wrote in an email request for a response to the fire chief’s assessment.
“As San Diego residents and commercial property owners, Kilroy is committed to working with the mayor and City Council on ways to increase fire-safety resources,” he added. “We’re encouraged by the additional outlays for fire-safety in the mayor’s proposed budget for next year, and we expect the City Council to support continued progress toward addressing the overloaded public safety system.
“Additional tax revenues generated by One Paseo will provide approximately $1 million to the city’s operating budget every single year, which will help fund that effort,” Scott wrote. “If approved, One Paseo also will invest more than $6 million in major improvements along Del Mar Heights Road, installing a state-of-the-art traffic-flow system that will address problems created by the outdated equipment currently in place.
“These investments will improve overall travel times for everyone, but it will be especially useful for emergency vehicles, which will have greater control over signals during an emergency response and therefore improved response times,” he concluded.
Although the project is in the city of San Diego and falls within the jurisdiction of the Carmel Valley Planning Board, members of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board have consistently raised concerns about reduced emergency vehicle response times as a result of the proposed project.
That organization represents about 7,300 people east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds to Sorrento Valley.
Dennis Ridz, board chairman, said Mainar’s evaluation was “politically correct.” He said a projected population increase in the county in the next four decades wasn’t taken into consideration, nor was the timing of an expansion project for Interstate 5.
“If Kilroy finishes One Paseo at the 1.54 million (square feet) by 2016, and Caltrans does not even start work on I-5 until 2020, and takes three to five years to complete, Del Mar Heights Road will be a parking lot for many years,” Ridz said.
He also expressed concern about “hiring and keeping firemen based upon lack of pension and other benefits.”