CARLSBAD — An application from Rouse Properties for a mixed-use project on the west end of The Shoppes at Carlsbad was denied unanimously during the Oct. 17 City Council meeting.
Rouse is calling for a mixed-use development of the 24-acre site with 321 residential units, 25,8000 square feet of retail space and 214 hotel rooms. In addition, 20 percent of the residential project would be affordable housing.
“We’ve had an unbelievable plan that has gotten us to this point, and that is the Growth Management Plan,” Mayor Matt Hall said. He added that the city has already started down the path Rouse wants to go, but it was a question of the pace at which it should happen.
Both Hall and Councilman Keith Blackburn agreed there should be a residential component to the property, but stepped back from supporting the application because of density and housing element issues.
“Looking at this property, it hasn’t hit its stride,” Councilman Michael Schumacher said. “Procedurally, I don’t think it makes sense to move forward with the application. The state of California has made changes in legislation that has put increased pressure on cities to add more housing. If you play that over time, it doesn’t matter what our Growth Management Plan or the voters said, in some regard, the state is in effect upzoning parcels of land in Carlsbad and all cities in California.”
The council, though, realizes the pressure of affordable housing, as Schumacher explained. Hall said it is more important to do the project “right,” than rush through the process.
“There are a lot of questions that will have to be addressed in the interim,” Hall said.
City Planner Don Neu gave a presentation and outlined why staff did not support the project.
First, he said, there are multiple property owners involved including the city, which owns the parking lot, Rouse Properties and several department stores.
Neu said one major issue is reserving housing for the Village. There is a citywide cap of 54,599 units and it cannot be increased without voter approval.
The capacity in the northwest quadrant of the city is 129 units outside the Village, and 584 units reserved for the Village. The northern quadrants are more constrained than the southern ones, Neu said.
He added it’s important to keep the excess dwelling unit bank for the Village and those revitalization efforts. Also, The Shoppes site would not meet the 20 dwelling units per acre required as a San Diego Area of Governments Smart Growth Opportunity Area.
“If the project were granted at that magnitude, it would leave us with no units in the quadrant as well as reducing the Village units to 392,” he said. “It would also leave us with no flexibility for other issues.”
Rouse Properties Senior Vice President Josh Goldman said the project would be an upgrade for the city and reinforces Rouse’s commitment to revitalizing the area. The company has pumped in millions in renovations for The Shoppes at Carlsbad and the renovations are expected to be completed in less than two years.
“We would be taking a blighted area and a sea of asphalt into a walkable, livable community with additional green space for the community,” Goldman said.
Brian Harper, CEO of Rouse Properties, sent a letter to the city in March explaining why this development is a positive for the city and Rouse.
Rouse bought the property in 2015 from Brookfield Asset Management and began renovations in 2016. The upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of this year.
“We see The Shoppes at Carlsbad as the premiere multi-dimensional experience in the area and we believe the current improvements are simply the foundation for a first-class property,” Harper wrote. “The west end of the property, partially under city ownership, is currently a large and underutilized parking lot that represents surplus parking not required for the shopping center’s operations or compliance with city parking codes.”