REGION — San Diego City Council members rescinded their Feb. 23 approval of a controversial mixed-use development in Carmel Valley.
The unanimous decision at a May 21 special meeting came after stakeholders on both sides reached a compromise, paving the way for a smaller project on a 23.6-acre vacant lot on the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.
When first proposed, One Paseo called for about 1.8 million square feet of development with retail and office buildings, some 10 stories tall, a 150-room hotel and more than 600 multifamily residential units.
After meeting with residents and planning groups, developer Kilroy Realty Corporation reduced the overall square footage by about 30 percent — to approximately 1.4 million square feet — lowered building heights by 10 percent to a maximum of nine stories and eliminated the hotel.
As approved with a 7-2 vote, the $750 million “neighborhood village” complex included 608 multifamily units, 200,000 square feet of retail space, 484,000 square feet of office space, a movie theater and more than 10 acres of open space.
Opponents said it was still too big and would negatively impact traffic on already-congested nearby roadways, result in increased emergency response times and destroy community character.
Most said they support a development on the lot, but not one three times larger than what current zoning allows.
Supporters say the project would provide much-needed housing and employment.
Following council approval, opponents collected more than enough signatures to force a referendum.
That left council with two options at the May 18 meeting. They could withdraw their decision or let voters decide the project’s fate during a special election, at an estimated cost of $4 million to $4.5 million, or the June 2016 primary, which would cost taxpayers between $814,000 and $914,000.
Instead they continued the meeting to May 21 because, as Councilman David Alvarez said, “there was hope that we could actually have a resolution.”
During that time Kilroy and representatives from a group that filed a lawsuit against the developer in early April worked out a compromise.
“We agreed to settle this lawsuit if and only if you rescind the project,” Jan Chatten-Brown of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the firm representing the groups that filed the lawsuit, told council members.
“This would allow the public, city agencies, planning commissions and this council to consider a new One Paseo project,” she added. “And that project will dramatically reduce traffic and other impacts.”
Chatten-Brown said the groups were motivated to settle “by a desire to reduce the risks that … neither the litigation nor the referendum would be successful in stopping the original project.”
“At the request of Kilroy the details of the agreement must remain confidential,” Chatten-Brown said, adding that there is a “summary of criteria the new project must meet in order to comply with the agreement.”
She said the new project will be presented “through the normal city processes and all the public will have an opportunity to assure that their concerns, too, are addressed.”
Jamas Gwilliam, a Kilroy vice president, said the agreement represents “the first opportunity to strike a deal with a broad coalition of neighborhood groups.”
“We’re pleased to be in this place,” he said. “I want to stress that the revised project that we plan to put forward is not fully designed. It’s tough to design a mixed-use project on 23 acres in a couple of weeks.
“But we’ll be working under certain parameters that we’ve agreed to … that address the traffic and community character concerns that have been voiced,” he added.
Gwilliam said the new proposal will reduce the average daily trips by about half of the current estimate of 28,000, and one of two traffic signals on Del Mar Heights will be removed, pending city approval.
He said buildings will be no taller than seven stories and all will be set back at least 30 feet from High Bluff Drive, Del Mar Heights and El Camino Real.
Gwilliam added that the entire bulk and scale will be reduced.
“By doing this we can deliver the community many of the amenities they desire, including work-force housing, shops, restaurants while addressing their concerns about traffic and visual impacts.”
Initially Kilroy said reducing the size of the project would make it difficult to attract businesses and residents.
“We believe this is a fair compromise that allows us to move forward in an expeditious manner and deliver One Paseo to Carmel Valley and avoid a protracted legal battle,” Gwilliam said.
“After nearly seven years of continuing dialogue we are looking forward to working with the entire community to move this project forward,” he added. “We are grateful for you giving us this opportunity to complete our compromise and your ongoing support of this smart-growth opportunity for San Diego.”
Nearly four dozen people addressed council during the more than two-hour meeting. All urged council to rescind the previous approval, as did 32 others who did not wish to speak.
Council President Sherri Lightner, in whose district the project is located and who voted against approval in February, said she appreciated the continued efforts to “bring about a well-planned project on this site.”
“I did not believe that would happen on Monday because of what had transpired up to that point,” she said. “So I’m glad that I was wrong in not supporting the continuance.”
With the approval rescinded Kilroy “can submit a refined version of the One Paseo project that reduces the average daily trips and total square footage of the project in a way that is acceptable to the surrounding community,” Lightner said.
“This would represent a significant collaboration between the community and the developer and bring about the results everyone desires — a mixed-use project that would benefit the community,” she added. “The revised project should incorporate the constructive feedback provided by the four community planning groups and the surrounding jurisdictions most impacted.
“The city has spent a great deal of resources on this issue,” she said. “The developer and community members have invested countless hours over the years in trying to bring about a positive resolution. The council now needs to pave the way for this agreement to proceed … and finally (bring) this chapter to a close.”