CARMEL VALLEY — For the second time in a little more than a year, a controversial mixed-use project in Carmel Valley was approved by the San Diego City Council.
But this time around, based on public input at the June 27 meeting, One Paseo will not likely suffer the same plight it did last year, when a successful citizen referendum prompted council members to rescind their vote and sent developer Kilroy Realty Corporation back to the drawing board — again.
When first proposed about eight years, the project 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.
Strong opposition to the size of the project — the 23.6-acre lot was initially zoned for a 500,000-square-foot complex — prompted local residents Bob Fuchs and Ken Farinsky to form a citizens group called What Price Main Street?
Their efforts paid off — sort of. After meeting with the organization, residents and planning groups, Kilroy 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.
When approved with a 7-2 vote in February 2015, the $750 million “neighborhood village” complex included 608 multifamily units, 250,000 square feet of retail space, 484,000 square feet of office space, a movie theater and more than 10 acres of open space.
During that seven-hour meeting there were hundreds of speakers, more opposed than not to the development on the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.
Still concerned about the project’s overall size and traffic impacts, including a potentially significant reduction in emergency vehicle response times, residents began circulating petitions in a referendum effort while several groups filed lawsuits or threatened litigation against Kilroy.
Opponents gathered more than enough signatures, forcing City Council to either rescind its decision or let voters decide in a costly special election.
Kilroy met with the stakeholders to work out a compromise, the lawsuits were eventually settled and in May council members withdrew their approval. Since then the groups have met during workshops and planning meetings.
The result is the scaled-back project approved 8-1, with President Sherri Lightner, whose district includes Carmel Valley, opposed.
Overall the new design is about 20 percent smaller at 1.18 million square feet. The number of multifamily homes remains the same at 608, of which about 60 will be affordable.
Jamas Gwilliam, a Kilroy vice president, said according to current market values, that means a studio or one-bedroom apartment would rent for approximately $1,800 a month.
The theater has been eliminated, retail space was decreased by approximately 60 percent to 95,000 square feet and office space was reduced by about 40 percent to 280,000 square feet.
Building heights will not exceed six stories.
Setbacks from the two main roadways will be a minimum of 30 feet, with higher buildings in the middle of the project in what Gwilliam described as a “wedding-cake effect.” There will be only one entrance rather than two.
Most importantly, average daily trips have been reduced by more than 40 percent, from 27,000 to 13,500. A synchronized GPS system, similar to one recently installed in Carlsbad, will be used to monitor signals for improved traffic flow.
Kilroy will also pay for a shuttle service to the Solana Beach train station during peak hours.
More than two-dozen people, including Fuchs, Farinsky and other former opponents, addressed council in support of the new design.
Many, however, said there was still room for improvements, including more affordable housing, still fewer ADTs and less retail and office space.
“It’s not perfect,” Farinsky said, but it’s a reasonable compromise “and one I can support.”
More than three-dozen other people said they support the project but didn’t want to speak.
Approximately 10 people spoke in opposition of the new plans, with another dozen noting the same but indicating they also didn’t want to address council.
Susan Nelson said 1.18 million square feet is “still far too much development. It’s far too dense. It could still be better.”
“It brings more people into Carmel Valley at the expense of current residents,” Jill Wolf said.
The majority of the council members praised the process and the new design.
Myrtle Cole said she would like Kilroy to develop in her District 4, which includes Oak Park, Lincoln Park, Encanto, Paradise Hills and the North and South Bay Terraces.
“I want and I need a development like this in my district,” she said.
Lightner, in whose district One Paseo will be located, said she received “a considerable amount” of correspondence from constituents who said they oppose One Paseo but wouldn’t be speaking at the meeting.
They said they didn’t think their input would matter because the outcome was predetermined, Lightner said, calling their comments “disturbing but not unexpected.”
She said she still opposed One Paseo because too many “significant unmitigable” impacts remain.
Carmel Valley is not a transit community and it is “disingenuous at best” to think it will eventually attract more public transit options, she said.
She said she still has concerns about public safety, traffic and impacts on community character. But mainly, she said, she didn’t support the project because it should have at least 20 percent affordable onsite housing.
“People deserve the opportunity to live and thrive in the community that they work,” she said.
Gwilliam said with the reduction in retail and office space, Kilroy would not consider providing 10 percent more affordable units, even at a higher rate.