Vote may happen for strawberry fields mall

Vote may happen for strawberry fields mall
Assistant City Clerk Shelley Collins gathers referendum signatures submitted by a volunteer organization which is hoping for the chance to vote on the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan. Photo by Bryan Snyder

CARLSBAD — Opponents of the upscale retail shopping center proposed by Caruso Affiliated turned in more than 9,100 signatures Thursday to overturn Carlsbad City Council’s August approval of the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan.

In August, the council unanimously approved the 27-acre shopping center on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, after a divisive meeting with a record number of speakers.

County of San Diego Registrar of Voters has until Nov. 5 to validate the signatures.

In a written statement, Rick Caruso said he plans to continue doing community outreach.

“We will wait to see the outcome of the Registrar’s count of the petition signatures, but whatever the outcome of the tally we continue to be 100 percent committed to the Carlsbad community and to making the 85/15 Plan a reality whatever path it takes,” said Caruso.

Opponents had 30 days to gather enough signatures to overturn the council’s decision.

If the signatures are validated, the council will have the option to repeal the initiative or send the decision to the voters.

The council can either wait until the next regular election, which will be in November 2016 or hold a special election, which would be held no sooner than about three months after the council makes a decision.

Duplicate signatures will not be counted, nor will signatures that do not match the registrar’s list of voters currently registered in Carlsbad, according to the city spokesperson Kristina Ray.

Nonprofit Citizens for North County spearheaded the signature drive and aimed to get 9,800, a number they fell short of by about 800.

They were required to collect 6,523.

Caruso Affiliated also ran a campaign to let people withdraw their signatures from the opposition-led referendum and 723 requests were made to withdraw signatures from the petition.

In August, Mayor Matt Hall said the plan would add tremendous value to the city and goes beyond what is required.

About 50 acres are zoned for commercial use and Caruso plans to use half the amount for the shopping center and plans to set aside 150 acres as permanent open space accessible through public trails.

Opponents of the mall said Caruso’s project didn’t undergo extensive environmental analysis because the project went through the citizen led initiative, instead of the typical process, which includes undergoing the California Environmental Quality Act review.

A special election will cost the city between $450,000 and $550,000.

Volunteers marched near City Hall Thursday afternoon before signatures were submitted to the city clerk. Photo by Bryan Snyder

Volunteers marched near City Hall Thursday afternoon before signatures were submitted to the city clerk. Photo by Bryan Snyder

Citizens for North County had more than 100 volunteers working to collect signatures at Carlsbad gathering spaces, including the Dove Library, parks and sometimes outside of grocery stores.

Caruso is responsible for The Grove and The Americana shopping centers in Los Angeles.

Nordstrom has already signed on to the retail center, which doesn’t have a name yet although Caruso said they’re planning to incorporate “the fields,” into the title.

Carlsbad Strawberry Company owner Jimmy Ukegawa has been a long supporter of the project because his strawberry fields, home of the U-pick, would be expanded.

A sign reading “don’t sign the petition” on the fields was visible from Interstate-5, referring to the referendum drive to repeal the initiative.

It was taken down because it violated city ordinances.

The issue has heated up in the past few weeks, with each side calling their tactics aggressive.

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