Every planning geek and policy wonk in town has an opinion about One Paseo.

It’s also too easy to get lost in the rhetoric around such a hot-button issue, as I fear Anthony Wagner did in his Letter to the Editor.

Let’s start with a bit of fact-checking.

First, the proposal to move the City Council hearing to a venue near Carmel Valley wouldn’t have set a precedent. While it isn’t routine, the Council has held special hearings on issues of intense local interest where there was an appropriate venue. It’s well known that recruiting supporters to attend a land use or transit hearing can be a challenge; bringing it to the community can be productive for all sides.

In the end, Council President Sherri Lightner announced the vote will be held at City Hall after all, on Feb. 23.

Rather than criticizing why a venue change was considered for this project, give credit to Lightner for creating an “aha” moment for neighborhoods and Council offices. Why aren’t more public hearings held away from City Hall? If City Council held hearings on critical issues in neighborhoods, perhaps there would be greater civic engagement from all perspectives. Perhaps they could inspire more confidence that public hearings are for the public, and truly reflect the quasi-judicial nature of the proceedings.

Second, the One Paseo project is not “one of the first” to come forward that “adheres” to the “city of villages” idea in the city’s general plan. The implied rhetoric that the fate of the general plan somehow hinges on approving the project at Council chambers is misleading at best and, at worst, hurts an important conversation.

Despite recent articles such as this one on the fate of urbanism, the general plan is being incrementally rolled out every day. Good projects, even very dense projects, are supported by their neighborhood and are getting quietly approved. Aspiring projects are being refined through the community review and public hearing process, and ultimately gain approval. And lest we forget, the general plan is not just about private development.

Instead of arguing about the where, we should wonder about the when. One Paseo has not yet responded to the community planning group’s recommendation. Kilroy did file a response to the Planning Commission’s unanimous position – “We agree in concept that the project is good but are unable to recommend City Council approval at this time based on the following considerations … ” – but opted not to return to the commission for endorsement.

Hopefully for this project, there is still a chance to work out a solution that everyone can embrace. But how can that happen if the recommendations of two thoughtful bodies are being ignored?

Carmel Valley is one of our city’s better examples of a complete suburban community – live, learn, work, play. Yes, it’s largely car-oriented but Carmel Valley will not be fundamentally changed by One Paseo’s offering of more retail, more housing, more office. I say this not to detract from One Paseo’s message but to put the project into proper functional context.

The general plan’s “city of villages” concept, especially when combined with the Climate Action Plan draft, makes for an important guide in moving our city forward.

There’s a lot at stake for our city in equally important but often competing issues: economic growth and private investment, housing that will be affordable for the next generation, mobility choices, reducing greenhouse gases and protecting our neighborhoods.

To move forward, we have to get beyond labeling folks NIMBYs just because they don’t like a project, and understand that implementing the general plan doesn’t mean every project is acceptable.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misrepresented Kilroy Realty’s responses to the community planning group’s recommendation and the Planning Commission’s position on One Paseo. 

Joe LaCava is a civil engineer. He lives in La Jolla. LaCava’s note has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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