One Paseo’s fate wasn’t on the line Thursday night. But the terms of the debate over its future might have been.

The local planning group rejected the proposed $650 million Carmel Valley project, and its 1.4 million square feet of offices, shops, restaurants and 600 condos spread across 23 acres in the heart of a planned suburban community in northern San Diego.

But that vote’s just a recommendation to the City Council. The Council can still vote however it wants. It’s expected to do so as early as December. The project will also go to the citywide Planning Commission for another recommendation before then.

In the meantime, the planning group might have taken advantage of an opportunity to shape the debate.

Instead of rejecting One Paseo outright, the group said it would be OK with a much smaller version of the project.

“This gives (the city) what we are willing to accept,” said board chairman Frisco White, a former member of the Planning Commission. “We need to come forward with something positive.”

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

The subtext of his comment, and the discussion among the board: If we simply reject the project, we make it easy for the Council to write us off as NIMBYs, or opponents of growth of any kind. Just saying “no” wastes our voice.

One Paseo has generated significant community pushback, from residents opposed to its effects on traffic and community character, and the shopping center across the street, which hired a major City Hall lobbyist to amplify its opposition to the project.

It’s also gotten a stamp of approval from city planning staff, which determined that on balance, it is consistent with the city’s long-term development plan calling for the creation of a “city of villages,” or a network of dense, walkable communities connected by public transit.

Some on the board thought rejecting the project altogether would send a stronger message. Nonetheless, the decision to OK a smaller version of the project passed 11-2.

The smaller project was a tweaked version of one included in One Paseo’s environmental review. State law dictates environmental reviews include a range of reasonable alternatives.  The smaller project had the look and feel of One Paseo, but included only 800,000 square feet of buildings and 300 condo units.

The smaller project had previously been rejected by Kilroy Realty, the developer, as a viable alternative, in part because it didn’t have enough retail space to succeed as a regional draw. The planning group attempted to disarm that argument by adding more retail space.

“Now, we’ve added the footage to make it feasible,” White said.

The City Council will still be left to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote on the 1.4 million square foot project proposed by Kilroy. It’s not like the City Council can vote to tell a private developer what project to build. They can only reject or approve Kilroy’s proposal, and Kilroy says it’s moving forward with the existing project.

Council members opposed to the project could still try out the idea of urging Kilroy to build a smaller version, rather than opposing it outright.

But based on the environmental report, the smaller project would still have some of the negative effects of One Paseo, just to a lesser degree. That means Kilroy would still need to spend millions to offset those effects with things like adding additional lanes to alleviate congestion.

At a certain point, if the project gets small enough (and, therefore, less profitable), Kilroy could just decide to rid itself of the headache and cost and build the 500,000 square foot office-only project for which the zoning already allows.

While the majority of the planning group, and much of the 150 or so people in attendance, clearly opposed One Paseo, one board member voted against the board’s proposal for a smaller version because he said he had come to like the project and it was just fine that there was a 23-acre portion of the community that was different than the rest of it. (He also said he commutes via cycle from Carmel Valley and that bike activists who consider the project’s bike infrastructure improvements immaterial aren’t speaking for him.)

The 600 condo units were a big part of his thinking.

“Many of us have kids and they have no chance of living in Carmel Valley without new housing,” said Manjeet Ranu. “I have come to support the project.”

Pressed to explain why they decided to support the project, the city’s planning staff likewise pointed to the city of San Diego’s housing needs.

But White, the board chair, was unconvinced. All of the city staff’s reasons for supporting the project, despite the negative effects it would have on traffic and community character, were economic in nature, he said.

“We need to know why economics are more important than quality of life, quality of community,” he said.

    This article relates to: Growth and Housing, Land Use, News, One Paseo, Share

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at or 619.325.0529.

    Kerry Key
    Kerry Key subscriber

    Mark Giffin - Check out Attachments A and B in the minutes from the Carmel Valley Planning Board meeting on August 28 at  There are about 130 supporters and 330 opposed,  but about 50 of the supporters have zip codes outside of Carmel Valley and many of them are associated with the developer.  There is also a opposition petition with over 2000 signatures from the area (

    @SDfan and @spoonman.  I hear your points but this isn't pure NIMBYism. I'm a CV resident opposed to the size of this development.  I live in a dense neighborhood of townhouses right next to the library, which I picked for its walkability (K-12 schools, restaurants and retail all within a few blocks).  I've been involved in the volunteer effort against this project and spoken to many other residents. Nobody here is against more housing, retail options and developing those 23 acres. Most of us simply think the project is way too big with too much impact on traffic. Why didn't the developer propose a realistic smaller project that would still be very dense by comparison to the rest of Carmel Valley as well as other most areas outside of downtown?  

    A similar density project is Santana Row in San Jose which is located in an already dense area with accessibility and public transportation. No mixed use development of similar scale even exists in San Diego.  If San Diego is going to experiment with high density mixed used development, it would be more suitable to find a location where the road grid and public transportation are already in place to support its successful implementation. One of the core tenets of smart growth is to provide a variety of transportation choices, which One Paseo does not. It is instead an island that would only be reachable by car;  public transit isn't even planned until 2030.  Even then, how many people will take public transportation to the high-end shops that Kilroy has planned for this development? How many people in the 600 housing units will actually work in the same building?  If One Paseo was downtown it would be a different story.

    It seems pretty clear--- the  1.5M square feet of the current proposal is about Kilroy trying to maximize their profit after buying those 23 acres for $80M at the height of the market in 2008.  Their latest corporate report (2014 Q2) shows they've spent $155M total on One Paseo.  They can slap all the greenwashing and smart growth labels they want on the project to make it seem like they have San Diego's best interest in mind, but that just a cover story to distract from the real issues with this project. 

    In my opinion Kilroy has the appearance of trying to hide the true scope of the project from the public. It is only in the environmental impact report where one can find accurate depictions of the size of the buildings (including the 170 ft tower). Why didn't Kilroy make a 3D model of the development publicly available? Why does their promotional material only have ground level scenes that don't show the full height of the buildings, especially in comparison to the existing nearby homes and 3 story office buildings?  

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Would be an interesting survey of the Carmel valley residences if they support the project or not. If gauged by traffic My guess that neighborhood would also consider increased density a dirty word.

    Support_business_SanDiego subscriber

    @Mark Giffin I agree that an independent survey could have been interesting.  In addition to the NIMBY factor, it probably would have identified a larger group that might have been highly supportive of the project if they only thought they were getting something good in return for the traffic (e.g. increased property value).  In the case of One Paseo all that citizens had to evaluate was (a) increased traffic v.s. (b) no clear community benefit.  Of course in this case the traffic issue became a major focal point as there was little on the benefit side to balance it out.  

    Support_business_SanDiego subscriber

    The project rejection was not so much about NIMBY as much as the result of a poor sales job by the City and Kilroy.  Carmel Valley is ready for progress that includes additional traffic, but it was never offer much in return.  As expressed by some of the board members "what is it that we will be getting in return for this impact on our community?"

    It was made clear that “economic benefit“ for the developer and the city was the key reason for City approval and other benefits were left murky.  A year earlier a Trader Joe’s and a repertoire theater was announced, but that was gone by the time of the vote. 

    608 condo units alone in prime Carmel Valley not far from the Pacific Ocean will immediately bring at least $500 million in revenue to Kilroy along with a considerable tax annuity for the city.  That is totally fine and good as any investor deserves ROI.   Where they messed up was by putting minimal positives on the table for the community except for a bowling alley and some bike lanes. 

    Making matters worse, the City Planners selling the property were ill prepared for the meeting.  Any direct question by the board was either dodged or handled like a “CYA” bureaucrat. It appeared obvious that the City employees were given marching orders from above to approve the project no matter what and they did what they did with half a heart. 

    That was compounded by a lone supporter of the project on the Carmel Valley Planning Board (an Encinitas City employee himself that was immediately resigning after the vote) unsuccessfully tried an inside job to hijack the meeting to a “yes” by manipulating the order of the vote along with a script of minimal conditions.

    In the end the board collectively came up with the best they could:  rejecting the project.  But they did offer a generous compromise to the City with a conditional approval provided that they meet certain not-to-exceed parameters.  It would have been better if the prescription was proposed earlier, but better late than never.

    SDfan subscriber

    @Support_business_SanDiego Explain exactly what this lone supporter tried to do at the meeting to manipulate a yes vote. And did he resign?  

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Support_business_SanDiego Maybe that "considerable tax annuity for the city" should instead go 95% to Carmel Valley. Then the community might not reject it. subscriber

    Just how many community residents voted for  so called"community representatives"?  First produce the numbers before you say that your group "represents" the community.  Let me guess how many votes each member got - bet it is less than 50. 

    Prove me wrong Mr. Chairman White before you so arrogantly state "This is all we will accept".  what you really mean is that is all we NIMBYs will accept. " We got in, now all the rest of you stay out."

    SDfan subscriber

    I think it's interesting how housing affordability, availability, and access aren't considered quality of life issues to members of the Carmel Valley planning group. Things like traffic, parking, and ill-defined terms such as "community character" and "neighborhood scale" always seem to take precedent to the needs of future San Diegans (i.e., their children and grand children). San Diego will keep growing, because people procreate. The shortsighted and self interested individuals that sit on these boards are not thinking about what we need in our community (more housing and nearby work spaces), only what they foolishly believe will maintain their property values and "quality of life." Then, when housing prices have pushed out generations of people from the region (as numerous studies have shown lately, especially in middle-age, family building demos), city leaders will have no one to blame except themselves for listening to a loud and irrational minority of NIMBYS.

    San Diego needs to implement a complete and unified plan to address our region's housing crisis or else the middle class will continue to shrink, and our communities and economy will become further stratified - which are the real quality of life issues we should be talking about, not if it takes 3-5 more minutes at a stop light to get to the I-5 onramp. Unless of course, our citizens -like those in Carmel Valley- are fine with this future?  

    spoonman subscriber

    @Matthews Great post. Time to stop listening to the vocal NIMBY minority.

    Also, this project ISN'T  out of scope with 'community character'. There are a row of 5-10 story buildings all the way down the street toward the 56 FWY. If the NIMBY's and hicks don't like the city, maybe they should move to Ramona.

    SDfan subscriber

    @spoonman Thank you. Community character is really just a poor excuse to prevent change in places where people hold sentimental notions towards (usually) unextraordinary places. What makes anyone in Carmel Valley think that there neighborhood is anything less than a cookie cutter, suburban enclave deserving preservation goes way over my head. It isn't as if the developer is proposing a 20 story tower in the middle a tract development. It's a large empty lot, surrounded by office parks, highways, and strip malls. And while they may have paid an exorbitant amount of money to live in auto-dependent, unsustainable, and (quite frankly) dull community, that doesn't give them a right to stop alternative housing and lifestyle options from being developed, especially when the impact isn't directly on their .25 acre lot. Change will come, because it has to come, regardless of what a community thinks it's "character" is. 

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember


    Your assumption is they are a minority. I would say that is a stretch.

    SDfan subscriber

    @Mark Giffin It's easy to see a room full of angry people and assume a larger mob is outside. Yet if you ask people if having access to affordable housing or if being closer to job centers are important quality of life issues, the real majority comes out. When people are educated and engaged in an effective way about land-use policy they are more receptive to change. When people stop arguing about height limits, parking requirements, and traffic patterns and actually start to realize the larger problems that poor housing affordability and availability has on economic mobility and stability in communities then opinions evolve. Right now a small group of people in Carmel Valley are having a very narrow and limited debate based on arbitrary factors they consider important and impactful. Yet when these issues are held up against the bigger problems and people realize the economic and social implications of limiting development the tune changes and the irrational minority is pushed aside so progress can move forward. We need more multi-unit housing, we need job centers close to homes, we need more economic opportunity, and most people would agree with these points.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @SDfan @Mark Giffin 

    " Yet when these issues are held up against the bigger problems and people realize the economic and social implications of limiting development the tune changes and the irrational minority is pushed aside so progress can move forward. We need more multi-unit housing, we need job centers close to homes, we need more economic opportunity, and most people would agree with these points."

    And if put in the context of what the negative impacts would be to achieve these goals? to them personally? Tune changes are fickle.

    I think the majority of people in the area are well aware of the project, its impacts and would rather maintain the status quo. 

    Again, would love to see a survey.


    David Wojtkowski
    David Wojtkowski subscribermember

    @SDfan This is rich.  So over the years when CV Planning Board has had countless elections - most with people running without opposition - where were you?  Just kicking back and complaining?  Hey, why do the extra work when you can just complain from your cubicle?  I mean sitting on a Board like this actually takes effort.  There is NO doubt in my  mind that the Board's vote represents popular opinion in CV - I've lived here for 12 years and talk about this issue all the time - I have yet to meet one person who supports it. I'm not talking about developer interests from outside 92130 but the actual residents - that's the exact purpose of the CVPB - the Council can override that.

    SD will keep growing because people procreate?  Really?  Do they procreate at a 2:1 or better ratio (answer: no).  The only way it continues to grow is if people immigrate here - birth rate won't do it. 

    David Wojtkowski
    David Wojtkowski subscribermember

    @SDfan @spoonman Look the state of CA is set up to give some say to local community organizations - unlike most other states.  You don't have to agree with the rationale of the vote - what's clear to me is the CVPB vote represented the overwhelming educated opinion of CV residents.  Developers will always want to develop - and don't be confused here - there ONLY purpose is to make money. That's it - sometimes it has some great spin offs but don't think for a second that Kilroy has any interest at stake other than its pocketbooks.  CVPB issues recommendations only - so if the Council wants to override they can but people coming on here arguing against the vote because they know "better" than the residents what the character is - is absolutely ridiculous.  Before your post how about you a) use your real name b) list where you live and c) declare if you are related in any fashion to the developer.

    92130 - no relations to developer - 100% against and fully support all aspects of the CVPB vote.