So far, the tensions over One Paseo have largely centered on things like traffic, community character and being a good neighbor.

This week, it suddenly became an issue of life and death.

The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board held a meeting Thursday to discuss what would happen to its community if developers were allowed to proceed with One Paseo, a proposed project of 1.4 million square feet spread across offices, stores, housing and outdoor space on a 23-acre parcel in neighboring Carmel Valley.

The Torrey Pines planning group really doesn’t have any say on a project in an adjacent neighborhood.

That was the subject of the group’s meeting on Thursday.

Specifically, the group wants to know why the city hasn’t examined the effect the project will have on emergency response times in Torrey Pines. The group says it invited all the mayoral candidates to hear their concerns. Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre was the only one to show up.

It also invited members of the city’s development services department and Kilroy Realty, the project developer; both declined. The assigned city planner for the area, Bernie Turgeon, did show up.

Torrey Pines, located immediately west of Carmel Valley, relies on Station 24 for its emergency response. Station 24 is on Del Mar Heights Road, just east of the One Paseo project sight, at Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real.

Much of the opposition to One Paseo stems from its effect on traffic in the area. The Torrey Pines group has taken that idea a step further: Gridlock traffic stops emergency response vehicles too. The project requires approving an amendment to the Carmel Valley community plan, approved in 1978, that only allows for 500,000 square feet of office space on the parcel in question.

“We as a community of Torrey Pines are directly impacted by what happens in Carmel Valley,” said Dennis Ridz, chair of the planning group. “We can choose not to drive over there if it’s too busy. But we have no choice when it comes to emergency fire and rescue coming to us.”

“Station 24, which is almost kitty-corner to the project, is our emergency service, and Del Mar Heights Road is basically our emergency lifeline.”

Enter Aguirre, who wanted to give the Torrey Pines group some advice.

“What’s going to happen is, if they build this thing, someone’s going to — exactly like you said — some kind of loss of life, there’s going to be some kind of incredible cost to people because of the enormous traffic, it’ll have an effect on the economy, it’ll have an effect on getting back and forth, it’s going to become a much worse situation, and that’s why they have the original zoning there to begin with,” Aguirre said.

The former city attorney also said he was offering some legal advice: The group should start making public records requests for correspondence between the developer and city officials, hire a lawyer and ask to update their community plan before anything else happens.

Here are a few other choice quotes during Aguirre’s 10-minute spiel to the board:

“You’ve got to understand the nature of the game that you’re in. One of the great strategists once said that the most important thing in war is to have combat experience. You’re in combat.”

“I did this with Rose Canyon, I did this with a big project in Hillcrest, I did this in Kensington, I did it when they tried to do this in La Jolla: It’s not that these people are evil, it’s that they’re smart.

“You said you’re a Chargers fan? Well you’re playing Dallas, baby. You’re playing Denver. You’ve gotta get your helmet strapped and get in there. You’re just standing up for your property values.”

“What I already picked up here, is, you guys, no offense intended, are house kitties, and they are alley cats. And you’ve got to get your house kitties, and your alley cats, and organize yourselves as a force.”

Aguirre left, and the meeting continued.

The group resolved to send a letter to the city and Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents the community, to voice its extreme displeasure in not having its emergency response issues considered thus far during the approval process.

It also voted to form an ad hoc committee to draft comments for the project’s environmental report, which is currently in its 45-day public review period, after which the approval process will resume.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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