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One Paseo Would Set an Ugly Precedent

If One Paseo is approved, developers will certainly reflect on their approach to community outreach and likely find it isn’t worth the effort.

Residents who oppose a new development in their neighborhood are often dismissed as NIMBYs.

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But some projects really are flawed and ill-suited for a community. Such is the case with Kilroy Realty’s One Paseo.

The concerns surrounding the One Paseo project are so great that the project has attracted opponents well beyond Carmel Valley. In addition to the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, the planning groups of Torrey Pines and Del Mar Mesa voted to reject the project.

The cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach oppose One Paseo and BikeSD’s Sam Ollinger has publicly denounced it as “bad for bicycling.”

Beyond official bodies, two primary opposition groups have emerged. What Price Main Street? represents the views of many Carmel Valley residents and businesses and comprises more than 5,000 members. The group has been working for six years to achieve modifications to One Paseo that would make it appropriate for the community.

READ MORE: All the Fuss About One Paseo in One Placeo

Mitigate One Paseo is a coalition of coastal cities, planning areas and agencies, all concerned about the project’s impacts beyond Carmel Valley. One Paseo’s traffic impacts will be felt as far as several miles away and the project is designed to attract visitors from a 10-mile radius.

What is unique about these groups is that none has said the site should not be developed. They aren’t even advocating for a strict implementation of the zoning designation, which allows for 510,000 square feet of office space.

What Price Main Street?, the longest active residential coalition, has repeatedly expressed its support for a mixed-use project on the site. The group’s qualifier is simply that the project fit the community and respect the established neighborhood character – something the 1.45 million square foot One Paseo, with its 150-foot towers, doesn’t do.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board even indicated it could support a development a few hundred thousand square feet greater than the current zoning designates.

The bottom line: Many of the individuals, businesses, governments and advocacy groups that oppose One Paseo don’t have a blanket opposition to development. In fact, they’re open to development and are flexible on the size and shape of a new project.

So how did we get just a few weeks away from City Council consideration with thousands of unhappy San Diegans dedicated to fighting this project?

Kilroy began its quest to build One Paseo by unveiling a 2.1-million square foot mixed-use center more than six years ago. The project was communicated early on to the public through a 26-page brochure with warm and inviting pictures but not one mention of its size or scale.

A second iteration of the plan landed at 1.8 million square feet with no reduction in actual development – just a withdrawal of the parking structure’s square footage. When it was forced to consider other alternatives, the developer scaled down again, to 1.45 million square feet, by removing a proposed hotel. That proposal, though, would still triple the density currently allowed.

Kilroy’s strategy seems to be touting the project’s economic impact – yes, undoubtedly, adding so many new uses to the area will result in some positive economic numbers – and disseminating pretty pictures that disguise the true size of the center.

Truly constructive community engagement isn’t on the list.

Kilroy often touts its efforts to respond to community feedback. But we haven’t been impressed, to say the least.

A member of What Price Main Street? was one of several planning board members to meet early on with Kilroy during its initial outreach. At these meetings, there was no discussion of project size, height, density or traffic, only whether the community would be OK with a mixed-use development.

In multiple instances during the planning process, direct questions and concerns raised by the community regarding traffic and density were ignored or dismissed. It wasn’t until the draft environmental impact report was issued in March 2012 that the project’s traffic, size and scale and its negative impacts became public.

In fact, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s comments to that report stated, “Community planning engagement process was ignored. The project description’s goals/objectives were not the result of a community planning engagement process set forth in the General Plan.” Kilroy did not respond to this comment in its final environmental impact report.

A developer that genuinely considered the community’s input would not have proposed a project that has motivated more than 5,000 opponents to sign petitions, write letters and send emails to City Council. Nor would such a developer be distributing a mailer across the city in a desperate attempt to drum up support outside the community.

Can this take-no-prisoners approach really work? Can a developer identify a plot of land, propose whatever it wants regardless of land use restrictions, dismiss the concerns of thousands of area residents and receive a project greenlight?

We’ll soon find out where City Council members come down, and the result could set an ugly precedent. After all, if One Paseo is approved, developers will certainly reflect on their approach to community outreach and will likely find it isn’t worth the effort. Why should they take the time to meet with neighbors, host open houses or consider the feedback of planning groups if a project can be approved without these extra steps?

The City Council must weigh the costs and benefits of all projects, but one fact is certain. If the concerns of an entire community can be cast aside in the name of opportunity, our entire civic structure is under attack.

Bill Chatwell is a Carmel Valley resident and member of What Price Main Street? Chatwell’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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