BCARLSBAD — There has been a significant shift in the stake of the property in Ponto near the San Pacifico neighborhood.
According to representatives from the resident group People for Ponto, the 11-acre site is no longer up for development by Shopoff Realty Investments.
Lance Schulte, Mike Sebahar and Chas Wick, members of the group, said Shopoff has pulled out of its contract agreement with the property owner, Hudson Advisors, Inc.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher also briefly spoke about the new developments several weeks ago during a City Council meeting.
The three men, however, met with new City Manager Scott Chadwick on April 2 to discuss the controversial property. Shopoff’s proposal was for 136 condos up to 40 feet on the 11-acre lot east of Ponto Drive and north of Avenida Encinas.
Shopoff Realty Investment also has rights to a 3-acre parcel on the west side of Ponto Drive, which was proposed for a commercial center.
Nearby residents, especially those in the group, though, have long called for a coastal park and open space, noting over the past nearly 20 years, city staff did not follow the Local Coastal Program guidelines.
“There’s a lot of legislative things that any developer is going to have to do to make that property feasible for development,” Schulte said. “They decided they were going to walk away from this.”
Messages left with Shopoff and the property owner, Hudson Advisors LLC, were not returned. In addition, messages left with the city of Carlsbad were not returned by press time.
Although Shopoff has pulled out, the future of the land is still in question, Schulte said. But it is the group’s position the land should be developed as a coastal park.
Sebahar called it a “seminal moment” the city’s history and the opportunity for a creative new project would benefit not only Ponto residents, but those in La Costa, Bressi Ranch and Aviara, to name a few, as those residents would no longer have to visit a coastal park in north Carlsbad or Encinitas.
He noted the group, for years, tried to negotiate with Shopoff, but they were working against a “very aggressive” developer.
“We felt like it did not pay homage to this spectacular, pristine piece of coastal property,” Sebahar said. “There is no opportunities like this left, really, that we could think of for a community to create this gorgeous piece of space.”
In addition, the three men said the property may be up for sale, which adds another twist to the long-running issue. It is possible, they said, one or more residents may attempt to purchase the land, or perhaps the city may consider a land swap with portions of Veterans Park, which is off of Faraday Avenue and Cannon Road.
For years, park and open space allocations for Ponto have been redirected to Veterans Park, Schulte said.
Regardless, the group is attempting to work with the city in a more constructive way to fill in the gap of a coastal park. Currently, residents in the area, and even east of Ponto, must drive to north Carlsbad or Encinitas for a coastal park.
There are two other parks nearby, Poinsettia and Aviara, but Ponto residents have long said it is too dangerous for children to access, as they would have to cross the Poinsettia Lane-Interstate 5 bridge.
“This was an issue that was starting to get bigger because of all those people inland who don’t have access,” Schulte said.
Another issue, he said, was the city not following the LCP regarding parks and open space allocations. Although the group unearthed those issues, Schulte said they want to be more diplomatic after Shopoff withdrew from its agreement.
So far, the city is open to continuing a dialogue, Schulte added.
“We can’t imagine not taking this opportunity and make something really amazing,” Sebahar said. “We want creativity and how do we get this done. That will be how we continue to engage with the city.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.