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Protesters rally against strawberry fields mall

CARLSBAD — A group of environmental advocates held a press conference Thursday to express their concerns over the proposed strawberry fields mall and to encourage City Council to send the project to a special election ballot.

On Aug. 25, the City Council will have the option to either approve the mall proposed by Caruso Affiliated or send it to a vote. The proposal includes a 27-acre shopping center anchored by a Nordstrom and 177 acres of open space surrounding Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The proposal also includes plans to expand the strawberry fields.

Opponents criticized developer Rick Caruso for bypassing environmental review in order to speed up the process.

“We’ve had a process in place for many, many years that works. The California Environmental Quality Act is a long and arduous process but it works,” said President of the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Fred Sandquist. “If we have a process that works, why take the city, the planning department, the planning commission and CEQA off the table if it’s such a good project.”

The Chairperson of the Agua Hedionda Foundation, Maureen Simons, was one of the three citizens to introduce the initiative to the council.

A representative of Caruso Affiliated said environmental analysts provided an in-depth review of the environment.

“Our environmental analysis studied every single aspect that would ordinarily be studied under CEQA,” said Bryce Ross, vice president of acquisitions and development for Caruso Affiliated.

The city hired independent analysts to review the proposal submitted by Caruso Affiliated.

The analysts found the project’s effects on air quality, biological resources and greenhouse gasses comply with professional standards of practice, applicable regional, state and federal guidelines.

An issue the independent analysts and environmentalists brought up was storm water drainage.

Analysts wrote there were concerns with storm water drainage that “will need to be addressed during the design process and the city’s grading plan review and approval process.”

Both sides had strong words about the other.

“They show a careless disregard for protecting this lagoon and from protecting our health that this pollution will cause,” Diane Nygaard, President of Preserve Calavera said.

Caruso representative Ross said they’ve done the environmental reviews and the environmental representatives are in the minority.

“A tiny group of opponents, many of which are from outside of Carlsbad, continue to use scare tactics and distortions of the facts to confuse Carlsbad residents about the 85/15 plan because they know the plan has overwhelming community support,” Ross said.

On Tuesday, the council will make a decision on whether to approve the shopping center or send it to a ballot.

In the past, Caruso said the shopping center wouldn’t cost taxpayers although his staff has not confirmed nor denied whether or not he’d pay for the special election.

“Our position on 85/15 from day one has been that it won’t cost the city or residents a penny. We’ve never been specifically asked a question about what the council would want us to pay for,” said Ross.

At the press conference Thursday, Sandquist asked the council to send it to a vote.

“It doesn’t solve the issue, but at least it gives us more time,” he said.

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8 comments

TAppleg8 August 22, 2015 at 6:13 am

Three people protested. This project has overwhelming support of the community and should be approved by the City Council bypassing an unnecessary and costly special election which is most likely to have a lower turnout than the signatures obtained.

Belinda Rachman Esq August 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Why are a few outsiders trying to delay a project that has popular support? Focus on the towns you live in and leave us alone!

Jerry Miller August 23, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I applaud the three protesters who turned out to speak on an issue important to them. It’s important to have involved citizens. I’m a supporter of the 85/15 Plan. I’ve taken the time to really understand the plan, by attending meetings, taking the Open Space tour, reading background information from both sides of the issue, and asking many, many questions that were important to me. These included question about the environment and other areas. I was very impressed with the time Mr. Caruso and his colleagues have taken to really understand our needs, wants, and concerns. I was especially impressed with their requests for our feedback. I’ve read much of the material on the City of Carlsbad’s website, including the 9212 analysis, performed by external consultants selected and hired by the City. The City Council now has all of the information they requested (and more) in order to make a legal, informed decision they feel is best for our city.

I hope that OCEANSIDE resident Diane Nygaard appreciates the fact that MY city council takes great measures to be thorough in its fact-finding. I hope her city does the same.

I trust my Carlsbad City Council to make an informed decision on Tuesday that they feel is best for my City.

Joan Wilson August 23, 2015 at 4:43 pm

APPEASEMENT – TRY TO MAKE THE COMPLAINING CHILD/PERSON/GROUP SATISFIED BY GIVING IN TO DEMANDS: Problem is that there are always more demands. APPEASEMENT – PROPOSITION D; APPEASEMENT – 85/15 SPECIAL ELECTION. This is a perfect case that shows APPEASEMENT DOES NOT WORK now, never has, never will. Proposition D, passed several years ago, provided for open space that allowed certain types of structures to be built on the “protected” open space — museums, city buildings, etc., and zoning allowed commercial use in a specific area near the freeway. Everyone was happy – the environmental “protectors” got what they wanted — stopped the proposed construction of homes, “sort of protected” the open space, and the strawberry fields were saved for as long as financially feasible. Now, here comes a developer who brought a plan to Carlsbad that will use less commercial space than currently zoned, will continue the farming and expand the strawberry fields, and will buy and make additional open space available to the public at no cost to the city or residents. It is a wonderful plan that is good for Carlsbad, site specific, and addresses the concerns of the so called “protectors of open space,” — the 85/15 plan is much better than we could have imagined — how often does a developer ask a community what they want and then deliver just that. But, are the “environmental protectors” happy? No, they continue to tell half-truths, provide false information, and plant seeds of doubt, and DEMAND a special election. They should just stop all the false talk and publications, and simply admit that they do not want any development of any kind at any time, and will fight anything that is proposed. Some day something will be built on the land zoned for commercial use, because it cannot be stopped forever. Why not have the best now — the 85/15 plan.

William Wong August 23, 2015 at 9:11 pm

I also respect that the individuals who spoke against the Initiative Process for the 85/15 Project have voiced their concerns. As a supporter of this project, I, and many other residents, have been involved in the planning phases of the project, provided input to the Project Team, toured the Open Space and attended Council Meetings. Caruso Affiliated has done everything possible to comply with all of the City’s requests and has filed an Environmental Assessment for this project. That EA studies every aspect that would be studied with a CEQA review.

The City Staff accepted the proposal submitted for the 85/15 Project and conducted a comprehensive and objective review of the project. The study evaluated the projects economic and environmental effect. The City’s Report, known as the 9212 Report, finds that the Project complies with virtually all City guidelines, regulations, traffic studies and provides financial benefit to the City and other significant Project Benefits pertaining to the Open Space.

Quoting the Assistant City Manager Gary Barbeno, “The work Caruso did was pretty thorough”. The 9212 Report backs up nearly all the claims made by Caruso Affiliated. The 9212 Report did not identify any major deviations that would prevent the project from proceeding. It did note some minor variations, that could be addressed in the ensuing months.

Since the City has already determined that the 85/15 Project meets all of the necessary requirements, it should proceed with the next phase of approval. The Council and its capable Staff, is in best position to make this determination. If they do not feel a CEQA review is necessary, I support that decision.

I trust the Council to make the best decision for the City on Tuesday, August 25th.

Tracy Carmichael August 24, 2015 at 3:29 pm

I am Carlsbad resident and have been involved for 3 years. I support the 85/15. It is a great gift.
I trust the City Council and Mayor of Carlsbad to make the right choice for our city and its
citizens.

Richard Wilson August 25, 2015 at 10:50 am

There are many fake accounts, via the Caruso marketing team, on this site posting nonsense. I fundamentally disagree with a billion dollar company buying its way around our environmental laws. THOSE LAWS EXIST TO PROTECT YOU! What is difficult to understand here? Also, Joan Wilson you say “here is a plan that will use less commercial space than is currently zoned”. That is a lie. That space is a special zoning designation, “visitor/tourist” serving commercial, not “retail commercial”. There is a HUGE difference! The 85/15 plan explicitly rezones the 26 acres to full retail commercial. Get the difference?

Paul Apanowicz August 29, 2015 at 8:32 am

Thanks Richard, great info on the zoning designation. I completely disagree with the way this “plan” got pushed through the city council by Caruso. It was ridiculous to see people speaking at the city council meeting thanking him while at the podium. Big business bought the bad :(.

Comments are closed.