Major residential or commercial projects can completely change neighborhoods – for better or worse – and can require millions of dollars, ballot initiatives and lawsuits just to get started.

Here are seven major projects to keep an eye on in 2016.

Lilac Hills

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Lilac Hills Ranch, a 1,500-home, master-planned community in Valley Center, has been controversial for a long time. A years-long battle to get the project approved may finally come to an end in 2016, when the County Board of Supervisors finally votes on the project. The vote, which was supposed to happen in the fall, was pushed off as Supervisor Bill Horn appealed an FPPC decision saying he should not vote on the project since his the project had the potential increase the value of Horn’s own property.

The FPPC ruled again on Wednesday that Horn should recuse himself, so the development-friendly supervisor – who was likely to vote in favor of the project – will likely have to sit out the vote. The Board of Supervisors vote on the project will likely happen at the beginning of 2016. The project is the first of several general plan amendments and is likely to set a precedent for future projects seeking exceptions to the county planning documents.

Escondido Country Club

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The city of Escondido ended a long battle with developer Michael Schlesinger’s company, Stuck in the Rough, over a country club property in the city this fall. Schlesinger bought the golf course in 2012, but his plan to build 270 homes enraged neighbors. The contention included an episode involving chicken manure being spread across the golf-course in 2014.

Neighbors launched an initiative to permanently preserve the space as open space, gathering thousands of signatures. The Escondido City Council passed the measure outright and Schlesinger sued the city, saying the zoning change was unconstitutional and that the action was basically a “taking” of the property.

In March, a judge agreed. But before the hearing for damages, Escondido settled with Schlesinger. He agreed to withdraw his proposal for the property and set up a deal with a different developer to take over the property. Next year, keep an eye on what developer ends up with the property and what plans they have for it.

Rick Caruso’s Carlsbad Shopping Center

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso started his own citizen’s initiative for his mall proposal along the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in May, hoping to bypass the state’s premier environmental law. The Carlsbad City Council approved the measure, which led an opposing group to gather signatures against the project.

In November, the City Council voted unanimously to send the measures for and against the plan to voters on Feb. 23. Pay attention not only to the outcome of the election, but the campaigning as well. Caruso spent more than $5 million in the first nine months of the year in Carlsbad. Westfield, a competing mall developer, has announced it will donate $75,000 to the opposition.

The Pearl in Solana Beach

The Pearl exemplifies the struggles to build affordable housing in California coastal communities. In April, the Solana Beach City Council approved the three-story complex, which would include 10 affordable apartments, office space and parking.

The project would help Solana Beach comply with a settlement the city entered into to after being sued by affordable housing advocates.

The Pearl has faced significant opposition from neighbors, who filed a lawsuit once the Council voted on the project. A court ruled against the neighbors to allow the project to go forward in August.

However, the residents appealed the decision in September and we’ll have to wait until 2016 to see whether their case holds up.

Chula Vista Bayfront

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego have been trying to entice developers to develop the 535 acres on the Bayfront.

The master plan has completed a full environmental review and has Coastal Commission approval, and the city of Chula Vista is hoping the entitlements will draw interest in developing the area. But things have been moving slowly.

After putting out a call to developers, the city and Port received a response for a keystone project: a hotel and convention center.

Cindy Gompper-Graves, president of the South County Economic Development Council, said the city is expected to bring the official agreement with RIDA, the hotel and convention center developer, right after Jan. 1.

Westside Infill Transit-Oriented Development in National City

The Paradise Creek 201-unit affordable housing development project broke ground in November after about a decade of bureaucratic wrangling. The development is located in an industrial part of the west side of National City, a few blocks from the 24th Street Trolley Station.

The project was awarded several notable grants – it was the only housing project in the region to receive cap-and-trade money from the state and it was one of only five projects nationwide to receive a sustainable communities grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The first phase of Paradise Creek will include 109 family homes and is expected to be completed in November 2016. The second phase will be finished in 2017.

Breakwater Town Center in Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach is undergoing a transformation. Once a mostly dismissed coastal town, it’s starting to attract restaurants, retailers and home development. The Breakwater Town Center, whose first phase should be under way in 2016, is emblematic of that change.

The more than 40,000 square foot retail space, will include a Starbucks, Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and most crucially, the anchor store will be a big grocery store – something that Imperial Beach hasn’t had until now.

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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