San Diego council OKs One Paseo

San Diego council OKs One Paseo
After four years of planning and a seven-hour meeting that included more than five hours of public comments, San Diego City Council approved One Paseo, a controversial mixed-used project in Carmel Valley, with a 7-2 vote on Feb. 23. Courtesy rendering

SAN DIEGO — One Paseo, a controversial mixed-use project in Carmel Valley, was approved Feb. 23 by the San Diego City Council with a 7-2 vote at the end of a seven-hour meeting that included hundreds of speakers, more opposed than not to the development on the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner said she was “deeply disappointed and even shocked at the decision.”

“Not only will this oversized development cause unmitigated, permanent impacts to surrounding communities, its approval has damaged people’s faith in government in its complete disregard of current zoning laws,” said Heebner, whose neighboring city has sent letters opposing the size of the project.

With its vote the San Diego council changed the zoning, which is currently for about 510,000 square feet of office space, and nearly tripled the amount allowable development.

“If there is a referendum on this decision, I will support it,” Heebner added.

Her reaction was echoed Del Mar City Councilman Terry Sinnott, whose city also submitted several written comments opposing the bulk and scale of the project.

“They approved growth, but not smart growth, which requires a good transportation system in place before you create a ‘village,’” he said. “It was a big mistake and I am afraid it shows poor planning for economic gain.

“What disturbs me the most is that the decision destroys the public’s faith in the community planning process,” Sinnott added. “Why have community planning groups, community plans or any of the trappings of community involvement if you are going to ignore the plans the community creates? It represents very bad governance.”

Sinnott said he commends Lightner’s efforts and “all the people that made the effort to voice their concerns.”

“They did an outstanding job,” he said.

County Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former Solana Beach City Council member and one-time mayor whose district includes the project site, shared the reactions of Heebner and Sinnott.

“I am disappointed by the recent vote on One Paseo,” said Roberts, who has criticized the proposal since it was introduced more than four years ago. “I will continue to stand with a majority of my constituents who oppose oversized development that destroys our quality of life and hinders public safety in our neighborhoods.”

When first proposed, One Paseo called for about 1.8 million square feet of development with retail and office buildings, a 150-room hotel and more than 600 multifamily residential units. Some buildings were proposed to be 10 stories high.

After meeting with residents and planning groups, developer Kilroy Realty Corporation reduced the overall square footage by about 30 percent — to approximately 1.4 million square feet— lowered building heights by 10 percent and eliminated the hotel.

As approved the $750 million “neighborhood village” complex will include 608 multifamily units, 200,000 square feet of retail space, 484,000 square feet of office space, a movie theater and more than 10 acres of open space.

Most critics said they support development on the 23.6-acre vacant lot. In fact, some presented acceptable alternatives.

But they said One Paseo is too big and will negatively impact traffic on already-congested nearby roadways, result in increased emergency response times and destroy the community character.

Supporters say the project will provide much-needed housing and employment. Kilroy estimates One Paseo will result in 3,800 construction jobs, 1,590 permanent jobs, increased property values and approximately $1 million annually in new revenue to the city.

Kilroy officials said reducing the size of the project would make it difficult to attract businesses and residents.

The complex lies within City Council President Sherri Lightner’s district. She and Councilwoman Marti Emerald cast the two votes opposing the project.

Lightner said she was disappointed the two sides couldn’t reach a compromise. She said she believes One Paseo has parking issues because it uses tandem parking for office uses, the retail market analysis is flawed and the city “is giving the developer a pass on water requirements.”

She added that it “will create immitigable traffic impacts.”

“Traffic is already a problem and it will get worse,” she said, noting that in her opinion the “proposed transportation management plan is a farce.”

Lightner also said she has concerns about impacts to emergency response times, and the environmental impact report is “fatally flawed” and likely will not withstand litigation.

“The potential benefits do not outweigh environmental impacts,” she said.

Emerald described it as “a beautiful project” that’s “too big for the area.”

“The community has good reason for concerns,” she said.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said she supports One Paseo because it will fulfill a housing need. She said residents initially opposed Liberty Station, a mixed-use development in her district, but now they embrace it.

“Today’s decision does not come easy to me,” Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said, adding that it is difficult to find a balance between being business-friendly and maintaining community character.

Before the vote, Kilroy agreed to designate 60 of the housing units as affordable and fund a three-times-daily shuttle service.

The developer also plans to invest more than $6 million in state-of-the-art GPS traffic improvements in the corridor.

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