One of the country’s largest mall developers, Caruso Affiliated, is pushing through a plan for a shopping center near coastal wetlands in Carlsbad using a novel method that could allow it to bypass many of the state’s environmental protection rules.
A California Supreme Court decision last August ruled that if a project gets enough signatures to put it on the ballot, a city council can approve it without going to voters and without a California Environmental Quality Act review, the state’s landmark environmental law that sets mandates for big projects to disclose their environmental impacts and reduce as many of them as possible. Two proposed football stadiums in Inglewood and Carson used voter initiatives to leapfrog CEQA, and Caruso is trying to make it happen for the first time locally.
Caruso is a Los Angeles-based developer, and to call what it typically creates a shopping mall isn’t quite right. Its projects – like The Grove in Los Angeles and Americana in nearby Glendale – are massive and ornate, kind of like if your hometown mall and Disneyland had a love child.
The company’s proposed plan in Carlsbad would take 200 acres between I-5 and the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, turn 15 percent of it into a shopping center and leave the rest for agriculture and trails.