About 12 hours after Carlsbad City Council approved the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Initiative, Rick Caruso held a press conference to thank the community and announce what’s next.
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Caruso looks to future of the ‘fields’

CARLSBAD — About 12 hours after Carlsbad City Council approved the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Initiative, Rick Caruso held a press conference to thank the community and announce what’s next.

On Tuesday night, council unanimously approved his plan to build an upscale mall on the strawberry fields.

Caruso said he’s been looking to build in North County for more than a decade.

“It has been a dream of mine to build in North San Diego County and we have looked in this area for a long, long time,” Caruso said.

He’s been doing community outreach for the past three years.

Owner of the Carlsbad Strawberry Company Jimmy Ukegawa spoke in support of the project.

“I’ve supported the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan from the beginning because it will allow my family business to be sustainable and to expand our farming operations from 30 to 60 acres,” Ukegawa said.

Part of the proposal includes preserving 155 acres as permanent open space and creating trails and picnic areas for the public to enjoy.

At the city council meeting Tuesday night, staff pointed out that voter approved Proposition D, which passed in 2006 declaring the land open space, did not preserve the strawberry fields forever.

Proposition D states that 50 acres within the lagoon area are zoned commercially and the reaming 176 acres will be set aside for agriculture and open space, as long as agriculture is financially feasible.

Ukegawa said he’ll now be able to pass the fields down to his family.

The project doesn’t have a name yet, although Caruso said they’ll likely include the word “fields” in some form.

He said they’ll continue to work with the community to form the design, which will be a coastal village style architecture.

“Personally, my goal is it’s going to be the best project we’ve ever built. The amount of designers and engineers that are working on it, it’s going to be spectacular,” Caruso said. “We aim to amaze.”

Caruso also discussed why he chose the citizen led initiative process, instead of going through the normal process for approval.

He said while the California Environmental Quality Act was originally intended to protect the environment, it is now used as a tool for competing developers to hold up a project in court.

“CEQA has just become much more of a sword than a shield for a competitor to stop project. The project is way too important to be caught in the court system,” Caruso said.

In 2011, Caruso had planned to develop a project in Santa Anita but competitor Westfield and residents rallied to shut the project down.

The project had gained approval by the Santa Anita City Council but was dragged through court and Caruso eventually abandoned the project.

Carlsbad leaders hope for a better outcome.

“This is going to be the nicest project in San Diego County, if not the nicest project in Southern California,” said Mayor Matt Hall.

The proposal will go to the Coastal Commission next week.

The project could be open by 2018.

First, the upgrades to the open space will be added before the shopping center can open.

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4 comments

Don Burton August 28, 2015 at 7:24 am

If he calls this thing “Strawberry Field Forever” two things will happen:
1. The Beatles will sue
2. John Lennon will rise from the dead

Oh, and the third one, I will vomit.

To all those people who just can’t wait to go shopping at Nordys, don’t hold your breath waiting for this thing to get built.

Paul August 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I was among those that was hoodwinked into signing the petition, as it seemed to be a petition that insured a vote.
Not happy to find out later that that was untrue, and that obfuscation plus the slick, somewhat deceptive (to the casual tv
viewer, which is most of us) leaves me with feeling that Caruso is maybe just another slick developer who is good at
sliding his plan by the citizens who have to live with it in their community.
Hopefully, the Coastal Commission will treat this developer with the toughness that this project deserves.
Matt Hall was behind the Lennar deal when he was Bud’s right hand man, so he obviously can’t be trusted to look out for the locals.

Do we really need a Nordstrom magnet mall here, plugging up the freeways more especially on weekends when the Angelenos come flooding down here by the tens of thousands already? Now they won’t just be driving through Carlsbad, they’ll be plugging up local roads and beaches and restaurants…. All good for the tax base for the City and the chain store tenants that will cater to them.
Good for the rest of us, the local businesses, and those of us who actually call this home? Not so much.

Hopefully the outcry that Mayor Matt talked about from his former clever-by-half Lennar deal, will come out again, and manifest itself so the Coastal Commission stops this, or at least, puts it in limbo for years/decades. If that happens, it’s likely the economy will kill it (like what happened to Lennar and ultimately their Strawberry Fields deal).

Paul Apanowicz August 29, 2015 at 8:40 am

Well said Paul! I sure hope the Coastal Commission reviews the important aspects that will impact Carlsbad for years to come, instead of the shiny carrot Caruso waved in front of the City Council.

Don Burton September 2, 2015 at 6:47 pm

I just spoke with some people who attended the city council meeting. I missed it because of a wedding in Michigan. They said Caruso had thugs blocking the doors and the aisles so people couldn’t sit inside UNLESS they were supporters. So basically Jerry and all you other supporters of this POS, you can all drop dead. You think I’ve been vicious up to this point. You ain’t seen nothing yet. I’ve never encountered in all my 54 years such unabashed arrogance coupled with such complete ignorance. The arrogance is Caruso’s. The ignorance is on the part of his supporters. There is no arguing with you people because you do not have the capacity to think. Your brains do not function. You are mindless zombies enthralled by the Svengali-like powers of this huckster from LA who has no more morals than a streetwalker. He is now airing his lies again (good, let him waste his money) and you knuckleheads just eat it up with a spoon. No wonder we’re in such a sorry state. I used to be proud of Carlsbad and happy that I chose to live here after doing so much careful research. I’m still proud of some of Carlsbad. Proud of our excellent police, fire, public workers. Proud of our kids and our schools. Proud of the informed members of the citizenry. But I am absolutely ashamed of the sorry excuse for elected officials we have. They are the poorest bunch of self-serving liars I’ve ever seen (and I come from New Jersey, so that’s saying something). So Jerry, Arnie, etal if you guys enjoy bending over and getting reamed by Caruso while Hall holds his pants for him, go right ahead. Please don’t ask us to participate. We’re not into that kind of thing.

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