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One Paseo, the 23-acre, $650 million mixed-use project proposed for Carmel Valley, is back from a brief hiatus and its developers are pushing for approval from the San Diego City Council by the summer.
This time last year, the project’s developers, Kilroy Realty, were looking to have their needed approval by right about … now.
But opponents — composed of local residents and the owners of a neighboring shopping center, both concerned about the traffic the pseudo-Main Street project will bring to the community — successfully delayed the process.
Specifically, the expected timeframe fell apart after:
• A heated January meeting of the Carmel Valley Planners Board punctuated by an appearance from Mayor Bob Filner, who showed up to scold Kilroy for proposing a project four times the size of the property’s existing zoning.
• A confusing March meeting of the same group, during which city traffic engineers tried to provide clarity on the project’s effects, but ended up confusing things even more.
• A decision by the city, pushed by Filner, to expand the required environmental report by examining two scaled-down alternatives, requiring another 45 days of public review before the decision-making process can effectively resume.
So that’s where we’re at.
On Oct. 24, a new environmental report began its second 45-day comment period, which ends Dec. 10.
The delay also scared away a marquee tenant, Trader Joe’s, which had been used as a major selling point. Another specialty grocer, like True Foods, could take its place.
Developers say they’re hoping to get a vote from the planning group (that vote serves only as a recommendation) by late January or early February, a vote from the citywide Planning Commission (again, just a recommendation) by early spring and finally one from the City Council (that’s the one that actually counts), by summer.
But despite satisfying requests to explore scaled-down options, the proposal going forward is mostly the same.
In November of last year, Kilroy rolled out a smaller project than it had initially proposed. They killed the idea of including a big hotel, and scaled down the office and retail space by a little more than 10 percent. They reduced the overall size of the residential space, but kept the same number of residential units.
The result was the 1.4 million square foot, multi-use project discussed throughout the year. The 23-acre parcel on which it sits is currently zoned to allow 500,000 square feet of office space. Allowing for the bigger project means amending Carmel Valley’s 1975-adopted community plan, which requires Council approval.
“This project is the epitome of the ‘City of Villages,’” said Marcela Escobar-Eck, a land use consultant on One Paseo, referring to the general plan concept the city adopted in 2008.
The original environmental report examined a larger, 1.8 million square foot proposal. Now, the smaller option represents one of the three alternatives proposed in the new environmental study.
It’s also the only one of the three options deemed feasible by the new report.
The other two don’t meet the basic project objectives, according to the environmental report.
Namely, those proposals don’t offer the “main street development concept” Kilroy is going for. It wants to create an area where retail storefronts line both sides of a street, with residential units above.
“Basically, they seem to think ‘Main Street’ means residential over retail,” said Bob Fuchs, one of the most vocal project opponents, who writes for What Price Main Street? a site for project opponents. “I always thought ‘Main Street’ harkens back to small towns with quiet streets where people could congregate.”
By scaling the project back, the other two alternatives don’t create the sort of concept Kilroy wants, along with open spaces and public plazas consistent with other ready-made mini-downtowns.
And since those projects don’t meet those objectives, the environmental report says they aren’t feasible. Because they aren’t feasible, the report doesn’t bother to break down how it would go about mitigating their environmental effects. Only the main proposal that’s been on the table for the last year gets that treatment.
Clarification: This post has been updated to better reflect the objections of One Paseo’s opponents.