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If you’ve ever been to the The Grove in L.A. or Americana in Glendale, you’ll know what VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan means when she says Caruso Affiliated’s shopping centers are “massive and ornate, kind of like if your hometown mall and Disneyland had a love child.”

Caruso wants to build one of its signature luxury centers in Carlsbad, and it’s using a relatively new strategy to make it happen: sponsoring a voter initiative to bypass California’s fussy environmental review process. People waving clipboards gathered enough signatures to force the Carlsbad City Council to either adopt Caruso’s plan or put it to a vote of the people.

Of course, Caruso’s opponents say the people who signed the petitions really didn’t know what they were signing. They also say Caruso is not being honest about the impact its project would have on environmental metrics such as air quality.

New documents show Caruso has already spent $2.5 million on its campaign, the Union-Tribune reported, including $520,000 on TV commercials. That far exceeds the $1 million a developer spent on an unsuccessful effort last year to build hundreds of homes on a defunct golf course in Escondido, or the $1.44 million Palomar Health District spent in 2004 to win approval of a major bond measure. (Disclosure: I work on a contract basis with Anthony Manolatos, who served as a spokesman for the No on H campaign in Escondido.)

Development Deals Heat Up

In Oceanside, the Planning Commission approved a plan to build 420 residences on undeveloped land just 800 feet from Mission San Luis Rey. Though neighbors said they were concerned about traffic and emergency response times, the chief operating officer of the mission itself said the project is the best use of the land. (Union-Tribune)

 San Marcos is working on developing a downtown of its own. The city adopted a plan for its Creekside District in 2007, but not much has happened since. Two mixed-use projects with a combined total of 148 residential units and 27,200 square feet of retail space are now under construction. The entire 214-acre district won’t be built out for another 20 years. (Coast News)

Earlier this year in Vista, the City Council shot down a developer’s plan to build 35 two-bedroom apartments. The developer came back with a new version of the project, this time with 22 for-sale condominiums, each with three to four bedrooms. The project is one of several planned in the vicinity of South Santa Fe and Mar Vista, which the city opened to residential development in 2012. More than 2,000 new apartments or condo units are in the works in Vista. (Union-Tribune)

Carlsbad adopted a plan nearly 10 years ago to gentrify its Ponto neighborhood, historically a beachfront industrial area in the southern part of the city. Only one project, a Hilton hotel, has been completed since then, but an Irvine-based developer recently submitted plans for an 11.3-acre development of townhomes, condominiums, apartments and shops. (Union-Tribune)

Escondido, a city of 147,000 people, currently has just one movie theater complex, but Westfield just announced a plan to add a new movie theater complex to the North County Fair, which was renovated in 2012. The 50,000-square-foot addition to the mall would include 10 theaters. (Union-Tribune)

More News Bits

The Oceanside school district is exploring a possible partnership with the Orange County School of the Arts. (Union-Tribune)

 Thousands of area nerds will converge in Escondido this month for the first-ever Nerd Con. (Union-Tribune)

With $10 million in hand from the sale of a surplus elementary school property, Encinitas school officials say they want to spend half the money on energy-efficiency projects and school upgrades and put the other half into bonds to spend on future classroom technology upgrades. (Pro-tip: They might want to check out Lisa Halverstadt’s reporting on how solar investments have gone for San Diego Unified.) (Encinitas Advocate)

Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents several North County cities, is the only local politician getting money from the Spanos family these days. Dean Spanos gave $2,500 to the Darrell Issa Victory Fund in April. (Reader)

The World Hip Hop Dance Championship brought dozens of young, urban dancers from all over the world to Harrah’s Casino last week. The Wall Street Journal sent a reporter, who found some of the casino regulars were a bit uncomfortable. “It’s impossible to avoid them,” said one man at a slot machine. “I’d just as soon they not be here.”

Rumors of a Kristin Gaspar campaign for county supervisor have Encinitas politicians reassessing the local field for 2016. (Encinitas Advocate)

The anonymous author of the Encinitas Undercover blog says a County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar would be bad news for Republicans on the City Council. “They couldn’t come up with a single new viable candidate in 2014; how are they going to find two winning newbies in 2016?”

Anthony Elgindy, an Encinitas resident famous for being convicted of racketeering and securities fraud in 2005, apparently died in a suicide last month. (Reader)

Del Mar is thinking about raising its transient occupancy tax, which is currently at 11.5 percent. (Coast News)

 Water rates are going up nearly 14 percent in Ramona. (Ramona Sentinel)

Jeremy Ogul

Jeremy Ogul is a freelance writer and editor in San Diego. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter...

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