CARLSBAD — With less than a month remaining, the heat is turning up on gathering allies for Measure A.
Last week, Caurso Affiliated and the Yes on A camp gathered another big endorsement — the Carlsbad Police Association. It marks the second big union endorsement after the firefighters announced their support two weeks ago.
“If passed, Measure A will provide nearly $10 million in traffic improvements,” union President Jim Willis said. “It can be used to improve emergency services such as police and fire. We have reviewed Measure A and as an association, we believe it’s good for Carlsbad.”
The measure, also known as the 85/15 plan, proposes to commercially develop about 27 acres and create 177 acres of open space along the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon off Cannon Road. A successful referendum by opponents was certified in December and the special election is scheduled for Feb. 23.
Rick Caruso, owner of Caruso Affiliated and the major funding source for the plan, said having the CPA on board is another positive sign for passing the measure.
The developer also has strong ties to law enforcement, having previously served as the president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners in the early 2000s.
“Their mission is to protect and to serve,” Caruso said. “They have no interest or agenda unless it’s in the best interests of the residents they serve. That’s why I am so honored and humbled that the Carlsbad Police Association … are supporting this measure unanimously with the fire association, the paramedics, the City Council and other great elected and appointed officials in this city.”
Willis, who has been with the department since 2008 and took over as president last year, said the traffic improvements are a big reason why the CPA supports the measure.
“We were drawn to the fact that the road improvements and also the new city tax dollars can be used for more city services,” he said. “In researching the past projects Mr. Caruso has been involved with, we were very impressed. I reached out to a fellow police association in Glendale … they had nothing but great things to say about Mr. Caruso.”
Caurso built the Americana at Brand in Glendale, which opened in 2008 with 600,000 square-feet of retail space and 450,000 square-feet of residential space.
The property, meanwhile, offers spectacular views of the lagoon and its surrounding environment, which has become a point of contention between supporters and opponents.
Miles of trails are marked with neon green plastic tied to poles. According to Caruso’s proposal, residents will be allowed to step foot on the open space, which includes hiking trails and picnic areas.
However, a habitat management line has been established from the shoreline to, at points, 50 to 100 feet inland, excluding a big chunk east of the proposed trailhead, and will not allow for any development or clearing of plants.
One vocal supporter, Jimmy Ukegawa, owner of the Carlsbad Strawberry Company, said much of the commercial development will be blocked from view from a hill where his products are currently produced.
In addition, his unused portions are now certified organic and will be reintroduced into the harvest should Measure A pass. He also said farm-to-table production will lower the cost of his fruit.
Ukegawa said the swaths of invasive weeds will be removed, trails created and his production expanded, which are several reasons he is in support.
According to officials with Caruso Affiliated, if Measure A passes, it will take two years to develop the commercial and open space on the site.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.