Marcela Escobar-Eck might not be a household name, but the projects she’s worked on probably are.

The principal for land use consulting firm Atlantis Group was involved with three of San Diego’s most controversial land use efforts in the last 25 years: NTC Liberty Station, Sunroad tower and One Paseo.

That last one, the multi-use development planned for a 23-acre plot of land at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real has become a point of controversy for land use observers and Carmel Valley residents. When Council President Sherri Lightner joined us on the show a couple weeks ago, she made clear her distaste for the project and the efforts to get it approved.

Escobar-Eck objected to Lightner’s characterization of the project. “Contrary to what has been said by certain folks, this is not dumb growth, it is smart growth,” she told Scott Lewis in a special edition podcast. “And ‘smart growth’ is an overused term, but it’s responsible growth.”

She sees a general shift of greater responsibility from developers, driven by both the market and personal interests in sustainability. “You could build a really ugly building, build it with really cheap materials and leave town and you’re done. But that’s not what most companies these days are doing and that’s because that’s not what the workforce wants these days.”

Escobar-Eck also delivered some familiar real-talk: “We can’t continue to grow out, we have to grow up. The reason we’re not sustainable … unfortunately in San Diego, we have a chicken-and-egg situation … you can’t get the transit without the density. You can’t get the density without the transit.”


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Check out her full conversation on the VOSD Radio podcast to learn why she takes issue with the phrase “follow the money,” the access that comes with support of some city issues, what she’s learned through different stages of her career in San Diego and more.

Listen to the podcast hereon Stitcher or on iTunes.

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    This article relates to: Land Use, Must Reads, Radio, TV and Video, Voice of San Diego Podcast

    Written by Catherine Green

    Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects. You can contact her directly at catherine.green@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. Follow her on Twitter: @c_s_green.

    35 comments
    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    Growth? What has growth done but devour chunks of our quality of life? 


    If we don't build it, they won't come. This region needs to quit thinking growth. We are losing resources to hordes of new residents; traffic, crime, WATER are issues that can't be solved by ignoring them, or pretending they don't exist to pursue Business As Usual, including unwanted "fill in density" in neighborhoods.


    Meanwhile, faced with all these problems, our mayor and council chooses to focus on football. In fact, that was the first thing Faulconer did when elected, meet with representatives of the Chargers. I knew that this iteration of San Diego government was gonna be a waste of time when that happened.


    Apparently developing a stadium is more important than the hard issues with no easy answers.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    In San Diego, we use the term "land use consulting" to cover a wide range of activities. Dozens of consultants

    focus on helping developer clients convince city hall politicians to thrown out adopted community plans and

    upzone their clients properties, making millions in new zoning entitlements, some of which are shared with

    the consultants. It appears to be a business designed to corrupt local politicians and make developers richer,

    especially when it entails large political campaign contributions to the politicians before the zoning vote comes up.

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    SanDiego should be adding language in all our Community Plans that supports some sort of real Noise  Regulations similar to what is in place around of Airports to protect neighborhoods for excessive Noise pollution.  Business Noise, especially Late Night, is increasing and that is not a having a positive effect on our quality of life, so what is needed are daily periods of "quiet times" that are enforced. 


    More here:

    http://www.noisefree.org


    Welcome to Noise Free America

    Noise Free America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting noise, especially from boom cars,
    car alarmsleaf blowersbarking dogs, and motorcycles. Our mission is to elevate the issue of noise pollution with federal, state, and local officials, as well as to educate the public about the dangers of noise pollution. Please take a look at our mission to reduce noise in our communities.


    Diogenes
    Diogenes subscriber

    The current number of people on the planet, along with our "per capita behavior," is unsustainable.

    SANDAG sees population growth here in San Diego so therefore we "need" more housing.

    The reason we "need" more housing is the keep the supply of housing up and drive the price of housing down so that San Diego can continue to pay low wages. You see where I am going with this argument?

    If global population is likely to reach 8 billion by 2030, we will "need" more cigarettes, too.

    It is this circular thinking that prevents us from addressing the most pressing problems of mankind.

    San Diego is in a severe water shortage. The goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius is now most likely just a nice utopia, according to Faith Birol, a chief economist at the International.Energy Agency.

    It is predicted that by 2030 the world will need to produce.around 50 percent more food and energy, together with 30 percent more fresh water, whilst mitigating and adapting to climate change. This threatens to create a perfect storm of global events, according to John Beddington, England's chief scientific adviser..

    330 million Americans consume more petroleum than do 1.3 billion Chinese, and thus emit far larger amounts of greenhouse gases per capita.

    The United States which comprises leas than 5 percent of the global population, uses a quarter of the planet's total fossil fuel.

    So build more buildings, have lots of children and make more cigarettes because we will "need" them. Taxes on cigarettes could solve San Diego's budget crisis. I am being sarcastic to show the absurdity of an ever-expanding business model.

    The headlines today scream about lack of water resources and climate change. None of this matters to the deniers. OK, fine. You were warned.

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    @Diogenes When did we last see increased housing stock resulting in lower housing prices? (I'm assuming your own comment was facetious, at the least). That belief is like many others put forward by the "moneymakers" who argue that their policies will help everyone ("trickle-down theory" anyone?).

    Diogenes
    Diogenes subscriber

    $410,000 to 440,000 for median.house price in San Diego from February 2014 to February 2015.

    This looks like inflation to me. A $30,000 increase less inflation does not look that bad to me. Start using birth control and get those prices down! Fewer buyers, less greenhouse emissions.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Was approached by a person with a petition  to rescind my signature concerning One Paseo.

    I declined. Communities better start standing in support of each other concerning growth or the city/developers will force it upon us.

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    What about Plato’s solution for creating a community (in the Republic I think).


    A simpler solution for people who want to live in high-density and take the bus or train is to move to New York, Chicago or Detroit.  Mass transit was started there before the automobile so is well established.  The cold weather also fomented the creation of the subway, which is a great way to get around.


    My thoughts on creating greater density in San Diego revolve around “Why”.


    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Chris Wood 

    "My thoughts on creating greater density in San Diego revolve around “Why”.

    Agreed. 

    Not all of us want to accommodate population growth. The basic problems still remain just with more people.

     

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    @Chris Wood Yes, the reason "WHY" is that Developers want to make money and all they know how to do is Build.  If San Diego does not get built out them we will become an ever more exclusive area to live in, instead of being turned into a mini LA with all the problems that exist there.


    If I can't live in Ranch Santa Fe, why should others be able to live in Mid City because some Developer wants to build units there with help from the City?


    Equal DENSITY will insure that San Diego remains a great place to live.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Chris Wood A person who believes that governments should err on the side of freedom doesn't ask "why should the government allow this?" but rather, "why should the government not allow it?"

    Eric Spoerner
    Eric Spoerner subscriber

    @Chris Wood So those of us who grew up here, want to start families here, and pay taxes here can actually afford to do those things.

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    @Eric Spoerner @Chris Wood 

    “…So those of us who grew up here, want to start families here…”


    If you start a family here with your kids growing up in a high rise…it will not be the childhood you remember.


    My brother lives in a condominium that has small kids above running back and forth all day long - because they don’t have a yard.


    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    @Founder No it won't. It'll just frap it up for those already living here. You want density, move to LA. We don't have to be London, or San Francisco, or New York or Los Angeles.


    And we don't want to be.

    Sally Smith
    Sally Smith

    Marcella only does what benefits Marcella, including using her relationship with the previous director to get her way with the project, she bullied staff on this project, and participated in providing a bogus traffic report.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    I just sunk much of my life savings into the home we want to spend the rest of our lives in.  I get the suspicion from reading these comments and others that many think this purchase should entitle me not just to my own property but to control what all my neighbors and any nearby property or business owners may choose to do with their property.  Contrary to what I read from many people across the region, my investment does not entitle me to such broad liberty over other people's property.  I knew that when I purchased and I chose to buy anyway.  I realized that if I wanted a home in which the dynamics of the immediate neighborhood were never going to change I would need to buy in a Common Interest Development, get a voting block to control the decisions of the Homeowners' Association, and be sure every new prospective owner was given (and read) the Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions before they purchased.  And then I'd pick only such a development that was bounded by a permanent dedication of open space so that the nearby landowner couldn't build at any time in the future.


    San Diego is not a quaint, post-world war II hamlet any more.  It's a major city and one of the most populous regions in the country.  I don't have a position on One Paseo, but the people who are reflexively anti-growth are hurting our economy AND our quality of life.  That's because sprawl is bad for the environment, bad for quality of life sitting in cars, bad municipal budgets where all the maintenance and capital project money comes from.  


    I'm tired of people claiming to speak for why I bought in a single family zone.  Communities change.  I am not the only person I know who is okay with that.  And I didn't buy in my neighborhood so that I could get a frozen snapshot of life that would never evolve as my community evolves.  I'm not in the pocket of any developer any more than I am blinded by my concern for my community.  These labels aren't of much value.  I love where I live, I have great neighbors (even the ones who rent out their rooms on AirBnB).  And if it changes in a way that I don't like there are options.  But demanding that the government disadvantage some people by placing extra rules on their property just so I can stay in a time capsule is bad policy.

    Frohman
    Frohman subscriber

    @Omar Passons Time capsule is a great description - and exactly what some of my neighbors think they live in.  A 40 year old community plan is bad policy and the city needs to move on updating them all. 


    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    @Omar Passons Omar - You are just pushing the SANDAG line which is no surprise since you work for them, last I heard.  Unlike you, many others do want to retain their communities sense of time and space which is why they chose to buy in a craftsman neighborhood in the first place.  Having ones neighborhood get slammed with some of the highest crime rates in San Diego, late night noise that extends beyond 2 am many nights of the week not to mention having the local business district push for ever more outdoor night time events that only their customers seem to enjoy.  Where is the equality?  Why can't residents that live within walking distance of these business's enjoy a weekend evening without having to hear loud music blaring away from many blocks away?


    There are plenty of places to build in San Diego, without slamming ever more DENSITY into Mid City under the guise of "urban infill".  Until San Diego steps up and begins to increase the locations of these needed dwelling units so that all parts of San Diego have similar amounts of Low and Low Moderate housing units, we will be moving backwards in time instead of into the future, where people of all economic levels can find housing near to where they work, instead of living somewhere that requires them to commute long distances twice a day.


    Both SANDAG and the City of San Diego should fund studies that identify the number of people that commute each day, their income level and their job status then add in Seniors that are living on a "fixed" income.  This data could then be used to provide a map of housing needs that would identify which areas of San Diego need additional housing so that those that work nearby could then live locally.


    If San Diego does not promote "Live Locally" then their future planning is doomed.


    It also needs to be said, that many people work in areas where there is little to no mass transit, which is yet another reason why affordable housing needs to be spread throughout the City not just along "transportation corridors" that really only serve those that are forced to live in those "Linear Ghettos" because they have no other option.


    Sure students should live nearby to the college they are attending but others should also be able to live near where they work.  Sorrento Valley has a huge number of hi-tech jobs but how many housing units does it provide for all those that work in that area?  There are many service jobs in La Jolla but how many living units are available for all those that work in La Jolla?  These are the questions that need to be answered if our Planners are really interested in PLANNING for the future, because if they don't what we will end up with is just more of the same poor planning that we have now which are housing units being built where ever Developers can find the lowest priced land that allows them to maximize their profits per unit, which is great for them but does not address the true cost to all those that live in San Diego.  Having to keep building ever more roads is the result of poor planning, which as we have seen in San Diego is something that not only does not solve our transportation problems, it actually is making them worse! 

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    @Omar Passons Omar, Most of what you write above is not analogous to the One Paseo issue. Carmel Valley isn't being "reflexively anti-growth" but  continues to work to make the City permit a project which fits within the existing community plan. 

    Community resident opponents to One Paseo have clearly stated, over and over again, that they do not object to development of the same property if it was designed according to the existing community plan. That's neither anti-growth nor trying to "freeze a snapshot" in time.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    @Judith Swink @Omar Passons Judith, as I said, I don't have a position on One Paseo.  My comments are applicable broadly to everyone who is reflexively anti-growth, and the number of people who fit that description is not small.  I didn't write the comments in response to this topic because of One Paseo.  I wrote them because too many people mistake cause and effect.  San Diego's population is growing and as a result more housing options are needed.  Where we put that housing, how close it is to jobs, transportation options, open space, etc. is something we have some control over and ought to give some thought to.  That's all I'm getting at.

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    @Frohman @Omar Passons

    RE: "A 40 year old community plan is bad policy and the city needs to move on updating them all. "


    I agree, but as we have seen, the City is doing its best to take as long as possible so that Developers can continue to use loopholes to slam ever more DENSITY into older neighborhoods, something that new Community Plans would prevent, which is one big reason why the process is taking forever!


    We should be able to have a moratorium on new construction until the Community Plans are completed, then they would be done in no time at all since that would hurt Developers ability to make money, which is why they donate BIG to those elected which oversee the entire process. 

    Diogenes
    Diogenes subscriber

    Unlimited population growth sustains developer's.lobbyists, like Marcella Escobar-Eck, the poster child for unlimited growth. Her reasoning is based on a endless cycle of unlimited economic growth based on.unlimited population growth on a planet that cannot support that growth.

    Most people realize that the planet cannot absorb more greenhouse gas emissions. Transit-oriented development "TOD" policies for the basis of "Smart Growth." Ms. Escobar-Eck is a developer's lobbyist who pushes the idea that a zero growth policy would not promote public transportation as a means of combating greenhouse gas emissions.

    Economics is not a science because it externalizes the true cost of unlimited growth in population and gross domestic product. Our children and grandchildren have every right to ask why our generation "pigged out" and destroyed the environment. Ms. Escobar-Eck will have an epitaph, "Kilroy was here!" She is part of the problem.

    Until we can afford the necessary water and transportation infrastructure, let us not listen to those earning millions of dollars such as Ms. Escobar-Eck as she uses her revolving door influence to promote this myth of creating more misery to regain equilibrium. The fact is that we must reverse greenhouse emissions to survive as a species. But don't tell that to the "business community....," there are still profits to be made.

    If building dense buildings would create a sustainable future on this planet, I would support more dense development. Even sustainable growth is an oxymoron. We must reverse production of greenhouse gases. We must limit population growth. We must reduce our use of resources. Otherwise, our planet will arbitrarily limit human population growth.

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    Re: "Escobar-Eck objected to Lightner’s characterization of the project."

    Of course she did since she is now working for Kilroy and/or anyone else that will hire her to push DENSITY upon San Diego.

    Face it, DENSITY equals greater Developer profits, especially when it is accompanied by parking space reductions and other "lack of public amenities" which reduce the cost to build the DENSITY projects.

    Unsaid is the downside, which is the reduction in the Quality of Life for all those that now live near where the new DENSITY will be built, since additional traffic, noise, crime and other things will also increase!

    To all those that claim that DENSITY is a great thing, I say first spread it equally throughout San Diego, not just in some locations that usually have much more than the City average, then we will talk.

    To all  those that claim that San Diego needs to build more low and Low Moderate housing so that ever more people can live here, I say great idea as long as no neighborhoods have more than any others which is now the case.  I know that many renters would love to live in La Jolla, Bird Rock, University City and other affluent areas instead of in Mid City which already has more Low and Low Moderate housing than the rest of San Diego!

    DENSITY DUMPING IS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE DESPITE WHAT CURRENT COUNCIL MEMBERS AND/OR THE MAYOR SAYS.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Founder "parking space reductions [result in] additional traffic"

     That doesn't make sense. What sensible person would drive somewhere if there won't be parking when he or she gets there?


    "which reduce the cost to build the DENSITY projects."

    Is it a bad thing when the market can build affordable housing without government assistance?

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Founder


    1) Re: "What sensible person would drive somewhere if there won't be parking when he or she gets there?"  Yes, that happens all the time in NP, where people drive around and around looking for on street parking while the ultra low cost NP Parking garage is almost empty!


    2) RE: "the market can build affordable housing without government assistance?" 


    No it is not a good thing, if doing so slams one or two neighborhoods with too many Low and Low Moderate housing units while other parts of SD have almost NONE!  Mid-City has way to o may units already yet that is where BIG Developers want to add even more units!

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Founder "the ultra low cost NP Parking garage is almost empty!"

    If it's almost empty, doesn't that prove that the price is too high? If it were free or maybe 25 cents per hour, would people park there instead of circling around?

    "[Allowing the market to build affordable housing] is not a good thing, if doing so slams one or two neighborhoods with too many Low and Low Moderate housing units..."

    Are you still talking about Carmel Valley?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Founder "The City's Redevelopment Agency would not allow the cost of parking to go that low, it was suggested to get people used to parking in the garage instead of on the street."

    When street parking is free and garage parking is $5, you can save $5 by circling around until you find a free parking space. Does the Redevelopment Agency really think they can talk people into parking in the garage despite that $5 incentive not to?

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Founder The City's Redevelopment Agency would not allow the cost of parking to go that low, it was suggested to get people used to parking in the garage instead of on the street.


    NP residents are now seeking a parking district to help solve the problems with noise and parking that extend late night until well after 2 PM at least 3 nights a week.


    Carmel Valley is not yet impacted and therefore it will be many years before it has even half the number of units that mid City does.


    Thanks for asking.

    Diogenes
    Diogenes subscriber

    @ Derek Hoffman

    Under new CEQA Guidelines, building bigger roadways as mitigation will no longer be required to mitigate traffic impacts. Instead, communities will be free to invest in other ways of addressing transportation impacts. They may choose to invest in improved facilities for transit, bicycling and walking. They may choose to reduce parking requirements, or increase the mix of land use at a particular location.

    Reducing parking forces people out of their automobiles. You may believe this to be illogical. Being old fashioned means that we will resist getting on our feet, biking, or, God forbid, taking public transportation.

    Why? Because the lawmakers in Sacramento see greenhouse emissions as being more important than shopping. If you do not accept anthropogenic climate change policies that aim to reduce these emissions by limiting parking, then California is NOT the place for you. It is behavioral modification to make you walk, bike and take public transportation. Like it or not! Now if you are disabled, you can get a special parking sticker.

    On the bright side, your health will improve by walking an additional mile per day.

    Frohman
    Frohman subscriber

    @Diogenes Says the guy who drives to Starbucks every day.

    Diogenes
    Diogenes subscriber

    @Frohman

    You want me to carry my groceries from Ralphs?

    Round trip to Starbucks is exactly three miles. I picture you as needing that exercise - overweight and flabby. Am I right? At 67 years old, I walk at least two miles per day and go to the gym. You run a bus line along Del Mar Heights Road and I will ride that to Ralphs.

    You keep saying that you need Kilroy to build 9-story buildings for you to ride a bike. That is just an excuse. If you walk three miles round trip and carry your groceries back, then prove it or shut up.

    I am sick of your snide little personal attacks. They contribute nothing to the conversation. You must be suffering from One Paseo withdrawal syndrome. I am off to exercise for the fifteenth day in a row. My hike will take me to Torrey Pines and the beach where I can see what is left of the wildlife. No thanks to developers. I photograph what's left for my grandchildren. Wildlife is of no concern to you. Big buildings leave no habitat for wildlife. That does not matter to you apparently. Look at what the Scripps family did for this community. Even Spreckels provided public transportation.

    This is no more about me than climate change is about Al Gore or the earth being round was about Galileo. Time to drop your flat earth attitudes, values and beliefs and join the 21st Century.

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    VOSD needs to provide a BETTER forum for DENSITY discussion instead of just tiny articles and/or sound bites that only serve to promote one viewpoint.


    Why not have an ongoing discussion about DENSITY, so that comments posted one day are also relevant to the same topic the next day?


    Better yet, what about a multiple day debate where both the Pro and Con (no pun intended) get a chance to counter each other?


    Without better "coverage" VOSD is now running a distant second to the San Diego Reader in covering the local news that affects us all.


    p.s. Please provide "Tiny Links" so that these articles are easier to share with others.

    Diogenes
    Diogenes subscriber

    @Founder

    Density will require less parking, more walking and biking, and more public transportation.

    Marcella Escobar-Eck forgets about the greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures that will be enforced on cities under state law. Her clients want the profits under the old Guidelines in the case of One Paseo. That type of auto-centric development would not be allowed under the new proposed CEQA Guidelines because there is no corridor of public transit in Carmen Valley. That development has a huge carbon footprint that will extend for many decades into the future. Even a bus line would help. I blame certain City Council members for selling out. Marcella is just doing her job.in selling an an unecological development under the rubric of density without public transit. If people are stupid, Marcella makes more money.

    See my comment above @Derek Hofmann.

    In May, I was in Munich, Germany. I saw on the autobahn on a Friday afternoon with a three-hour wait to get in or out of Munich. High-speed rail whizzed by at 225 mph. The passengers would be in Frankfort before I was in Munich

    Europeans walk much more than their fat American counterparts. A half-mile walk to the train is not unusual. Germany is phasing out dangerous nuclear energy. Walking around downtown Munich is great with open-air cafes. There are many parks such as the English Garden. Clothing is optional. Churches are essentially museums. People pride themselves on being "green." Green energy is replacing carbon and nuclear. 30 universities just in Munich alone. People ride bicycles everywhere. Many young people do not even own automobiles.

    They are building constantly, high rise and high density with plenty of parks, libraries and museums. Outside the city limits, there are open spaces and lakes. Mountains are spectacular.

    San Diego is full of ghettos. We need to put people to work cleaning up the mess and building water and public transportation infrastructure. Spending. $10,000 per year to commute is not something young people want to do. Air pollution causes heart disease, asthma, and even autism. Surprise! Many auto-related deaths and injuries could be eliminated by public transportation.