Both sides make final push for Measure A

Both sides make final push for Measure A
Supporters and opponents of Measure A voice their opinions through yard signs on Adams Street in Carlsbad. The special election for the controversial plan is Tuesday. Photo by Steve Puterski

CARLSBAD — It is a mad dash toward the finish line.

Both opponents and proponents of Measure A are engaging in a rigorous, last-minute push to sway voters come Tuesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters confirmed that about 20,500 mail-in ballots (or 49 percent) of the more than 42,000 distributed have been received.

There are about 62,000 registered voters in the city.

The measure is one of the most controversial issues to hit the city in years and activists with Citizens for North County (CNC), among others who are not affiliated, and the supporters led by Caruso Affiliated are making the rounds.

On the ballot is a proposal to develop 26 acres of commercial space anchored by a luxury mall, while the remaining 177 acres is reserved for developing open space with hiking trails and expanding strawberry farming, to name a few, on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

Both sides have engaged in a lengthy battle, with Caruso Affiliated, the project’s developer, spending more than $8 million on the campaign including television ads, signage, mailers, an information center and walking the neighborhoods.

The opponents, spearheaded by CNC, has used social media to spread its message, but also has engaged in pop-up events, going door-to-door, phone banks and mailers as well. A majority of CNC’s funding came from a $75,000 donation from Westfield LLC, which sold its stake in the Carlsbad Mall last year.

“We are making our pitch face-to-face, making our pitch for why this is a bad project,” CNC President De’Anne Weimer said. “We are very dependent on social media. We are engaging over 40,000 people on a topic and that gives us some level of comfort. It is a David and Goliath struggle. Goliath is a little upset that David has a slingshot and we do. Our slingshot is social media.”

The issues cover nearly every aspect of Carlsbad’s way of life, which, depending on the viewpoint, is good or bad.

Proponents, including the City Council, which unanimously supports the project, have stumped for the vast improvements of traffic, access, and economic growth among others.

“The strawberry fields, which have been a cherished part of Carlsbad for so many years … will not only be able to stay on the property, but expand,” said Matt Middlebrook, executive vice president of development for Caruso Affiliated. “There will also be a great open-air promenade for people to enjoy.”

They point to upgrading traffic light systems, better access to Interstate 5 and along Cannon Road, among others. About $10 million Caruso Affiliated must pay to mitigate those issues and the millions in tax revenue the city will collect.

In addition, the proposed three miles of trails will allow residents access to the area and its views of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

“What they really appreciate is that this is a great opportunity for the whole community, in many ways,” Middlebrook said. “Particularly the open space and how much it creates. Under Measure A, this will become publicly accessible open space for the whole community forever at no cost to taxpayers. It’s maintenance and funding will be maintained in perpetuity by the project.”

Opponents, meanwhile, want to preserve the space, views and keep its natural state in place as to not disrupt any possible environmental toxins. While supporters say traffic, access and growth are positive aspects, those against want Carlsbad to keep its small town feel.

The need for additional traffic along I-5 and Cannon Road will increase, while the economics are overstated. In short, they don’t want this coastal community becoming another Los Angeles, a shot at the L.A.-based Caruso Affiliated.

In addition, the opponents also resent the developer circumventing the California Environmental Quality Act.

Weimer said the top three concerns for CNC are traffic, allowing 15 years of control by the developer over the land and the deception of the plan. The City Council and Caruso Affiliated have denied these claims throughout the past several months.

Weimer, though, said the traffic reports are overstated as their experts say 22 of the 34 intersections will be worse, only four will be improved by Caruso Affiliated, three will remain unchanged and five will be improved by the city.

In addition, thousands of added cars will become part of the daily commute. Another aspect, she said, is that previous reports studied Legoland’s impact only when the resort was closed with 5 percent of additional traffic added to the calculations.

“Number one was traffic and bringing 13 million people to the Cannon interchange per year and 35,000 cars per day,” Weimer said. “Number 2 is Carlsbad giving up the land and is not up to discretionary review, which is to say no. That is unprecedented. That’s why the former city planner Michael Holzmiller has been passionate on this issue, that’s why former city attorney Ron Ball is passionate on this issue.”

The rush toward the special election, however, is in full force as both sides reach out to as many voters as possible.

Both sides have racked up numerous endorsements with the City Council and firefighter and police unions and the Chamber of Commerce in support, while former city officials, the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation, just to name a few have endorsed the “No on A” movement.

Despite the growing tide before Tuesday’s results are announced, each side feels the work they have done will result in victory.

“We feel terrific,” Middlebrook said. “There are very few political measures where you see unanimous support from the City Council, the firefighters, the police officers, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation … they have endorsed our project. There is a huge coalition of people and organizations who have all gotten behind us.”

As for CNC, Weimer said the high turnout figures to be an advantage for residents in opposition. She said they have a “50/50” chance, although she said the election will come down to a handful of voters.

“We are pleased with the areas of the city we’ve been able to reach,” Weimer added. “We think our ability to reach those areas is partly responsible for that high voter turnout. With this massive voting going on in this special election … we hope we see a continued large turnout.”

9 Comments
  1. Don 11 months ago

    $8 million buys a lot of votes. However, some people can’t be bought. We’ll see who really “counts” when they count the votes.

  2. Dave 11 months ago

    I just noticed both Lisa Rodman and Jimmy (of course) in the latest TV spot. Isn’t the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation a 501c3 and as such aren’t they prohibited from engaging in overt political campaigning? I’ve already sent a complaint form into the IRS (Form 13909). I highly recommend others do so as well.

  3. MWYoung 11 months ago

    The facts are in the Measure A document. A yes vote cedes all decision making including surface water rights to an LA developer who has not provided confirmed plans for anything. Caruso is then under no obligation to fulfill any Yes on A delusions.
    Despite any claims by the City Council and the developer, how can anyone believe bringing 30,000 more car visits to the I-5/Cannon interchange will be BETTER than current already bad traffic?
    A $3.5 Billion net-worth developer and LA mayor-wannabe has spent over $8 million to stuff your mailbox, flood your TV with ads, and even put boxes of out-of-state strawberries on your doorstep. Ask yourself why he wants this so badly? To “save the strawberry fields” for a local farmer who actually owns many more acres in other parts of CA and Mexico? Or to make 100 fold more $$$ after you give him carte blanche with some of the most precious environmentally delicate land in Carlsbad?
    Lastly, Carlsbad will set an ugly precedent as a victim of a lawyer developer’s loophole by passing this measure. Small Business,, our cherished Village by the Sea, and everything which drew YOU to Carlsbad is at risk Tuesday.
    Vote NO on A because you want this done right!

  4. Darren 11 months ago

    501C3’s cannot campaign for political candidates; however, they are within their rights to campaign for issues. Instead of attacking people in favor of Measure A, why not stick to the facts and arguments? There are plenty of people that do not want a mall; is it necessary to denigrate people with whom you disagree? Is it necessary to denigrate a developer because he has money? As long as he didn’t take the money from me, I don’t have a problem with his being wealthy.

  5. Don 11 months ago

    Caruso will be taking money from us in the form of tax writeoffs. Do you really think he is planning to lose money? He’s smarter than Hall and the rest of those sorry city council people. If you understand the details of the LEGAL CONTRACT his people cleverly crafted, you will see this is all a giant swindle for his benefit. Guess who loses? And 501c3’s are restricted in their activities if they wish to maintain their tax-exempt status. Of course the fact the AHLF’s board is stacked with Caruso’s people (Gazzano and Jimmy) not to mention other corporate plants (NRG, Poseidon) makes them suspicious in their motivation. Read their mission statement. Are they really fulfilling it? Or are they in bed with a developer who is going to “save the lagoon” by building a mall? George Orwell was right.

  6. Dave 11 months ago

    From the IRS website:

    Like – Click this link to Add this page to your bookmarks Share – Click this link to Share this page through email or social media Print – Click this link to Print this page
    Lobbying

    In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

    Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

    An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

    Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt statu

  7. Atsuko 11 months ago

    Don’t forget that Jimmy sits on the Board of AHLF and has also donated thousands of dollars to Hall’s campaign. Illegal? No. Shady? Definitely.

  8. George Orwell 11 months ago

    It’s NOT a mall!!! It’s a “lagoon enhancement augmentation promenade viewing area serving visitors to improve our way of life”. Who wouldn’t want that?

  9. band2 11 months ago

    Corrections to middlebrook: we do not cherish the strawberry fields. Your use of the strawberry company owners to put a face on your strip mall project is insulting. We care more about the lagoon and our kids ability to see it, experience and appreciate it without another concrete structure shadowing over it. Great marketing tactic- hopefully it doesn’t dupe too many voters.

    No idea how you translate a mall on the bluff of 1 (of only 9) of our san diego lagoons as an “opportunity for the community.” This is ridiculous, the space is already preserved. It is interesting how you split hairs by saying the open space will become publicly accessible at no expense to tax payers, what about visitors? What about Cbad residents? I heard an access fee will be charged. I honestly don’t know the answer….note vote a people how i am asking the question…not lying to gain favor.

    I hope the people of Cbad are smart enough to see through these marketing ploys, fishy politics, and begin to think about preserving our kids future. When was the last time any one of our kids said they need another strip mall? They shop online. Let’s let them enjoy the outdoors.

    Also, if caruso wants in Cbad so bad, why didn’t he buy our existing mall and put some lipstick on it? These guys want us to forget about the old malls…they say no one goes to malls anymore. Developers build new ones, call them a shopping prominade and let the residents deal with the deteriorating old ones.

    Carlsbad should be investing in the downtown, preserving our waterfronts and open space, working to restore the existing mall and listening to all of its residents…

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