One Paseo Plaza imperils integrity of land use plans

Community plans, like budgets, are made to be amended, but surely the integrity of such plans should be preserved. How much amendment is too much? Is it important to uphold the policies and recommendations that community plans provide for growth or can a community’s desire to shape the way in which it evolves be thrown aside for the sake of developing a more financially lucrative project?

Residents of Carmel Valley have come face-to-face with these questions and will soon learn what San Diego’s leaders deem to be most important: supporting the planning process they put into place and frequently advocate for, or enacting such sweeping amendments that they undermine the very purpose of establishing guiding plans in the first place.

Kilroy Realty is proposing to build One Paseo, a mixed-use center of 1.45 million square feet of residential, office and retail uses on a 23.6-acre site in the heart of Carmel Valley. To put this in perspective, the completed center would have a greater density than Westfield’s UTC, locating 80 percent of its square footage on land that is one-third the size. How does such a large-scale, urban-oriented project fit into suburban Carmel Valley? The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t.

The site on which One Paseo is planned is designated in the Carmel Valley Community Plan for 510,000 square feet of office space that would generate fewer than 6,500 car trips a day. In contrast, One Paseo is almost three times the size and would bring nearly four times the amount of traffic.

It seems obvious that a project of this nature is inappropriate for the area in which it is planned. In fact, its approval would require such extensive revisions to the guiding land use plans that their integrity would be lost and their reason for being would cease to exist.

Rezoning is one example of the changes that would be needed to reconcile the project with the site. Kilroy is proposing a new zone exclusively for the One Paseo site. The proposed zone is based on the most intense community commercial zone in the Land Development Code, and would permit a mix of heavy commercial and limited industrial and residential uses in order to accommodate development of such high intensity. If this zoning is approved, it would allow Kilroy to later expand One Paseo up to 2 million square feet.

All of this is not to say that the site must house offices and nothing more if our land use principles are to remain intact. The community has expressed its support for a mixed-use project that would abide by the established character of the community and respect the development parameters that have been put in place to guide the area’s growth.

To this point, Kilroy has chosen to ignore the position of community residents and planning board members and pursue its project, amending the San Diego General Plan, Carmel Valley Community Plan, Carmel Valley Employment Center Precise Plan, San Diego Land Development Code/Carmel Valley Planned District Ordinance, and Regional Comprehensive Plan — five governing land use documents.

When One Paseo comes before the San Diego City Council next month, councilmembers will have the opportunity to demonstrate the process they value more: the collective work of a community to develop local priorities, site-specific recommendations and design guidelines, or the effort of a big developer to throw its weight around and override years of intentional planning decisions for the sake of one project.

Let’s hope the City Council makes the sound decision to stand by the community and urge the developer to go back to the drawing board and put forward a project that will benefit Carmel Valley. After all, as the city’s own website states, “Together, the General Plan and the community plans seek to guide future growth and development to achieve citywide and community level goals.”

Scheffler is an architect and 40-year resident of Torrey Pines. She is past board member of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Group and a member of the What Price Main Street steering committee, which opposes the One Paseo project.

View all comments
User Response
1 UserComments
Bud Emerson 4:03pm January 16, 2015

Great summary of the issue and the politics of decision making. My prediction is that Kilroy has a "huge concession" in its back pocket. They will make a last minute grand gesture to cut 100,000 from the project, meaningless in terms of the deleterious impacts of the project but enough of a fig leaf to cover a couple of Council votes. Sorry to be so cynical but money interests overriding good government is a long, despicable pattern.