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City officials stand firm on Ponto development plans

CARLSBAD — The long-running battle over a piece of property in Ponto is not expected to have a resolution any time soon.

Residents in the San Pacifico neighborhood have been calling for a coastal park and open space as required by numerous city policies and guidelines.

Recently, Shopoff Realty Investments withdrew from its agreement with Hudson Advisors LLC, the landowner, to develop 136 condos up to 40 feet on the 11-acre lot east of Ponto Drive and north of Avenida Encinas.

In addition, plans also called for commercial development on the smaller 6-acre lot across Ponto Drive.

But Debbie Fountain, director of housing and neighborhood services, said there is little the city can do, as it cannot violate the ownership rights of the landowner.

“They have not formally withdrawn their application,” she said of Hudson Advisors. “We are kind of in a holding pattern right now. We believe they have the right to develop the way the General Plan has designated the property, which is residential and mixed use.”

Fountain stressed the city is not advocating one way or the other, just that it cannot violate the rights of the landowner.

Should Hudson Advisors pursue its application, the next step would be to conduct an environmental impact report, which could take between 12 and 18 months, Fountain said.

One of the core issues is residents believe there is an open space and park deficiency in the southwest quadrant of the city.

Lance Schulte and Mike Sebahar, two residents and members of the group People for Ponto, said in a previous interview, the residents are not satisfied with how the deficiencies are being moved to Veterans Park, several miles away off Faraday Avenue and Cannon Road.

The city recently announced plans to develop Veterans Park with a $23 million investment gathered from development fees.

“A quarter of that $20 million came from this area that is not being provided a park,” Schulte said. “It is being given away to a park six miles away that we can’t use. We’re just asking to have an open, public dialogue to try and work through these issues.”

Fountain said the city doesn’t agree with the residents’ position on the location of the park space, noting the City Council, years ago, voted to exempt the area from the requirements.

Additionally, the San Pacifico development paid park-in-lieu fees to construct the project.

“There were council actions that were taken and it’s long past any appeal period,” she said. “We don’t believe any error was made because the council made those decisions, granted it was a long time ago. The council could come up a different policy, but that hasn’t come up at this point.”

If a park were ever to be built, the council must change the land use through a General Plan amendment. However, Fountain said such a decision could lead to legal issues of the land-use rights as subverting private rights, which could lead to a reduction in financial value, may lead to a lawsuit, Fountain said.

The value of the land also appears to vary, depending on who is commenting. Fountain said it could be worth as much as $40 million, while residents believe it to be around $14 million.

Schulte said the city could buy the land, or perhaps the residents, in addition to trying to work out a land swap with Veterans Park. He said, however, the land owner most likely would sell the land with its current land-use designation and any entitlements connected to the property.

“We understand the residents don’t agree … and think they are due a park,” she added. “That’s not how that land-use plan is set up right now.”

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2 comments

Michael Sebahar May 19, 2019 at 8:29 pm

The city’s response contains several inaccuracies and the greatest is that “there is little the city can do”. Unfortunately, the city has NOT produced the requested documents to support the assertion that the Ponto area in South Carlsbad should have ever received an exemption for open space requirements. Any “vote” by the council to do so appears to have been done in error based on the considerable documentation we’ve reviewed extensively through public records requests. Sooner or later, the city will have to deal with this problem. This property does not have the entitlements claimed by the city in this article and efforts towards a large residential development at Ponto will run into immense push-back and a sophisticated, coordinated response from our group and other interested community organizations who have the facts squarely in our corner. Additionally, our work has revealed an enormous level of support from the local Carlsbad community for the open space and a thoughtfully designed coastal Park we ARE in fact owed. It is a travesty that fees paid for by developers in the Ponto area in South Carlsbad might be used to develop a park 6 miles from Ponto, and not on the coast! The city of Carlsbad can easily afford to develop open space and a Coastal Park at Ponto with available funds without taxing residents. And the $40 million cost suggested in this article is without basis as, once again, no documentation for this valuation has been offered. People for Ponto has worked for over five years to see that the Ponto area is Developed Right for Carlsbad citizens, but also for all who visit and enjoy Carlsbad, California. We are committed to promoting engagement of the community and transparency by the city as this process moves forward as this has been lacking to date. And we will continue to fight for development of Ponto which offers open space and a landmark Coastal Park in addition to appropriate retail to enhance the coastal experience for all.
Michael Sebahar
Co-founder
People for Ponto

Reply
Rick Schneck May 22, 2019 at 1:05 pm

People for Ponto. Citizens for North County. Sierra Club of San Diego. League of Women Voters. Surfrider Foundation. The Supermajority California State Legislature. These are but a few of the radical organizations that have been allowed to metastasize in our once great state and culture. And to what effect? The blatant robbery of the freedom and liberty we once possessed but forgot to cherish and steward correctly. Is not the law of private land ownership reason enough to respect a man’s freedom and liberty to pursue happiness? Does the covetousness and tyranny of a minority of its citizenry have no bounds? Ponto has dozens of acres of government parks and open spaces in the form of a beach and estuary with miles of walking trails, benches and picnic spots around a scenic lagoon teaming with wildlife. The misuse of one man’s time to steal another man’s property and life was once socially reprehensible and shameful. And today, it is permitted and even encouraged by a misguided and broken people. A people who have lost sight of what right and what is wrong. Are we no longer a virtuous people with respect for the law and a spirit of goodwill toward our fellow man? The symptoms are clear. California is cancerous. Carlsbad is cancerous. Do we fight the cancer or do we acquiesce like Detroit, Los Angeles and God forbid, San Francisco? I for one am willing to fight. Join me and others looking to reform local and state government officials enslaved to nefarious organizations like government employee unions, unelected bureaucracies, radical environmental groups and those against your pursuit of happiness. Do something to recover a free California. You are not alone.

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