Carmel Valley’s One Paseo project could be a “model project" for the city and the region, if the benefits outweigh the concerns and the planning board recommends the project to the San Diego City Council for approval.
“I think it’s the most important project proposed in San Diego for the last six or seven years,” said Gary London, president of The London Group, which was hired to do One Paseo’s market study. “It’s good for community. It’s a perfect model project for the city and for the region.”
The 23-acre, 1.4 million square-foot project -- at the southwestern corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real -- would require a zone change from office to mixed-use, which would allow for housing, retail and office buildings, said Robert Little, Kilroy Realty Corp.’s vice president of development. The project has been in the works since 2008 and requires approvals from city council to move forward.
“It’s a significant boost in economic activity, not just for Carmel Valley, but for San Diego overall. A lot of the net impact goes to the city of San Diego, including housing fees and local fees,” Little said. “The project will also be providing recreational spaces and usable open space for the public to use. It will provide new options for convenience shopping and entertainment.”
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board planned to discuss the project at its Feb. 28 meeting, but moved it to March to allow staff time to respond to questions and make sure any new information is presented before a discussion on traffic, said Frisco White, chairman of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board. Increased traffic is one of the main concerns of the project. White expects the board to discuss whether to support or not support the project at a meeting after the March meeting.
“Traffic is always brought up when a new project is proposed,” London said. “Most of the cars that would be going into this site are already passing by this site today. My firm has determined through the market study that 55 percent of retail purchases that could be made by Carmel Valley residents are being made outside Carmel Valley, because there is not adequate retail to serve their needs. Those people are driving past this site every day … When this site is built, One Paseo will keep those dollars in the community and in the city of San Diego, from a taxing perspective. I don’t think it changes traffic at all.”
The overall size and density of the project has been “significantly reduced,” said Little, in response to comments and concerns about the buildings. More than 400,000 square feet of gross floor areas have been omitted from the project by reducing the size, both in density and building height. This reduction also reduced the peak hour morning and evening traffic, Little said.
The buildings will range from one to eight stories above Main Street. Two office buildings are eight stories; there are two one-story buildings along El Camino Real, a two-story building in the middle of the project, a four-story building and one five-story building, Little said. Trader Joe’s and Pinstripes have both signed contracts, in addition to a theater and four restaurants.
The elephant in the room is that people are concerned with changes, London said.
“There’s no question that when you’re building this kind of a project in a horizontal, suburban location -- a vertical mixed-use project changes the character of the community. The tension in this project relates to change,” London said. “There is a small, but vocal, group that do not want change. … Change is difficult but I think that’s what bothers people the most. Once developed, it will be completely embraced by the community.”
London compared One Paseo to the Del Mar Plaza Project, which he said was the target of “hostile push-back” from Del Mar residents.
“Today, it’s embraced as the heart of Del Mar. It’s a gorgeous project. Anybody ever in opposition wonders why they opposed it. Ten years from now, it will be the same for One Paseo,” London said.
London said it is “critical” the project receives approval because it meets the contemporary and future standards that the city has asked developers to achieve. This includes integrating residential with commercial, serving a demand that’s needed for housing and retail – which is smart growth, according to London.
“It’s exactly what the city was thinking about a number of years ago when they implemented the ‘city of villages’ policy -- the kinds of sensitivities the city was trying to get developers to address related to a mix of uses, an integration of uses, building development efficiencies and transit adjacent,” London said.
In addition to the mixed-use buildings, the site includes 10 acres of open space, Little said.
“Mixed-use projects have a consistent track record of increasing quality of life, with alternate modes of transportation, living and working and recreating with less dependence on the automobile,” Little said. “Particularly in this location, which is currently automobile-centric, it offers the surrounding community alternate modes of transportation and ways of daily tasks.”
The project will employ people both to build it and to operate it, London said. Over the project, Little expects to generate approximately 3,000 construction jobs.
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board will take an advisory vote on the project. If recommended, it will be sent to the planning commission, which will hear the project and either approve or deny it, according to London. The City Council has final approval of the project. Little said the process is too dynamic and changing right now to determine when the project could break ground, if all approvals are granted.
“It alters Carmel Valley, from that which was planned and defined 30 years ago as a suburban community, and starts to recognize that it is in fact now becoming a more urban community that needs to meet the demands of a more diversified mix of both residential and commercial tenants,” London said.