Signatures gathered for strawberry fields shopping center

CARLSBAD— Caruso Affiliated has gathered enough signatures to place the 85/15 Plan for an upscale retail shopping center on a special ballot.

In May, Rick Caruso announced plans to develop about 200 acres on Cannon Road into a mix of an upscale retail shopping center, expanded strawberry fields and accessible open space.

His team of about 30 signature gatherers had six months to get a minimum of 10 percent of registered Carlsbad voters to sign in support of the initiative.

The team did it in six weeks.

“I am honored by the trust the community has placed in the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan and the overwhelmingly positive response it has received,” said Rick Caruso, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated. “And now, the voters have shown strong support for the 85/15 Plan.”

The plan gets its name because 85 percent of the land will remain open space and 15 percent will be developed into the shopping center anchored by Nordstrom.

The Carlsbad Assistant City Clerk Shelley Collins plans to deliver the signatures to the County Registrar of Voters this afternoon in a U-Haul.

The registrar will have 30 working days to verify the signatures and if everything checks out, Carlsbad will receive a certification of sufficiency.

The signatures are brought back to the Carlsbad City Clerk who will have 10 days to present the results to City Council.

Carlsbad Assistant City Clerk Shelley Collins said in her experience, it’s uncommon the signatures gathered are insufficient.
The council will be able to decide whether to approve the project outright, or place it on a special election ballot.

If it goes to special election, Caruso is not required by law to pay for it but told the council in May that he would.

Caruso’s team was required to get about 9,800 signatures. They doubled it with more than 20,000 signatures.

That’s nearly the same amount of registered voters that showed up for the polls in the 2014 elections.

Nearly 22,000 voters, or about a third of registered voters, casted ballots last year.

Caruso developed The Grove and The Americana shopping centers in Los Angeles.

About 176 acres will be set aside as permanent open space.

This concept drawing shops the plan for the strawberry fields shopping center proposed by Caruso Affiliated. The retail space run parallel to Interstate 5. Courtesy Photo

This concept drawing shops the plan for the strawberry fields shopping center proposed by Caruso Affiliated. The retail space run parallel to Interstate 5. Courtesy Photo

The proceeds from the shopping center will fund upgrades to the open space, including an outdoor classroom and trails linking to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

Chairwoman of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation Maureen Simons supports the project.

Not everyone is in favor of the project.

Diane Nygaard from Preserve Calavera said she’s worried about the air pollution and traffic.

“Everyday we hear from more and more people who are concerned about the Caruso project and how (it) could impact our coastal waters, traffic congestion and air,” said Nygaard. “We think they should make a real good faith effort to improve the air pollution.”

Starting July 18, Caruso Affiliated will offer tours of the open space near the strawberry fields to show residents their plan. They’ll continue offering tours to the Americana on Fridays that leave their Carlsbad office.

In May, the city voted to get a jumpstart on a report on the project submitted by Caruso.

The document was more than 4,000 pages and City Manager Gary Barberio said it’d take longer than 30 days to review, which the city would have had if the members waited until all the signatures were gathered.

If everything goes accordingly, the initiative will likely come to council late August or early September.
It could go in front of the council earlier if the County Registrar of Voters verifies the signatures sooner than 30 business days.

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