Strawberry fields project will be economic boon

I spent over 14 years working to put up the Carlsbad sign in our community. Through years of hard work and collaboration with neighbors and friends across Carlsbad, we erected a sign that will be a shining beacon of our community for generations to come.

When Southern California developer Caruso Affiliated entered into a contract to purchase 203 acres of land off Interstate 5 and Cannon Road at the South Shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, they met with residents like me to hear from us and discuss their thoughts and ideas. After speaking with thousands of residents at hundreds of community meetings, white board presentations, bus tours to The Grove, and even coffees in residents’ homes, Caruso Affiliated heard from us loud and clear.

They heard we wanted to protect open space. They heard we wanted to preserve the strawberry fields and fragile coastal agriculture that adorn the property. They heard we wanted a community-gathering place for families to enjoy our Carlsbad lifestyle.

And from those conversations, the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan was born; a plan that turns 85 percent of the land into newly accessible open space and protects and preserves strawberry and agricultural fields and turns 15 percent of the land into an open air pedestrian friendly shopping, dining and entertainment promenade.

The open space will give Carlsbad families new ways to enjoy the outdoors with amenities like walkable wilderness trails, picnic areas with lagoon views and an outdoor education program focused on our local habitat. But I don’t believe we can overstate the importance of the 15 percent retail promenade — anchored by a best-in-class Nordstrom store — which I believe will be an important and prosperous driver of Carlsbad’s future.

Not only will revenue generated from the 15 percent retail element go toward fully funding the permanent conservation and maintenance of the open space, but I believe it will grow into a beloved community gathering place for all Carlsbad families.

The promenade is designed in concert with Carlsbad’s traditional beach community character and will reflect the local architecture and priorities of our town. The retail element will also open the door for residents to high-quality dining and shopping options we don’t have without heading to other cities, and handing over our hard-earned disposable income and tax revenue.

The plan is slated to include the only chef-driven concept restaurants in Carlsbad with exclusive views of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Like the open space adorning it, I know this land will become a destination spot where Carlsbad can go to catch a show, grab a bite to eat and sip some wine while watching the sunset over the Lagoon — a uniquely Carlsbad experience that will put our community’s character on full display.

Not only will this project be an economic boon for our city — with estimated annual tax revenues between $4.1 million and $5.8 million going into our city coffers, funding our schools, parks and public safety without burdening taxpayers one penny, but it will also help support local small businesses. Caruso Affiliated has committed to implementing a small business program (as they’ve done on their other properties) that allows local mom-and-pop shops to lease storefronts on the property at reduced rates, based on their own annual revenue. As the former chairman of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and a local small business owner, I applaud this innovative program and the on-going effort to give local small businesses new opportunities to succeed and grow.

In this time of drought, the 85/15 Plan utilizes the latest technology and innovations. The plan’s area will consume less potable water than what has occurred from previous agricultural uses. The plan also mandates recycled water for landscaping irrigation and water saving best practices.

All buildings on the 15 percent will also adhere to the latest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Core efficiency standards and include solar panels, high-efficiency lighting and electrical vehicle charging stations.

I’ve spent my life in this community and there’s nowhere other than Carlsbad that my wife Sandy and I would rather live raise our family and grow our business. I am committed to making sure we, as a community, move forward the right way—by protecting our open space and making our strawberry fields sustainable for future generations, by supporting local small businesses, and by giving families community gathering places to enjoy the company of friends, our great weather, lifestyle and amazing outdoors.

Carlton Lund is a local realtor, 2007 Carlsbad Citizen of the Year, and Immediate Past Chairman of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.


This op-ed has been corrected since its original posting.


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