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LAND USE DECISIONS
IN THE CARMEL AND SAN DIEGUITO RIVER VALLEYS

Jan McMillan in The Del Mar Spectator, April, 1984

 

Spectator Masthead.  © Jan McMillan


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On March 20, the San Diego City Council debated land-use issues which critics claim could have far-reaching impacts on the river valleys both north and south of Del Mar. On the agenda that day, along with highly publicized "threshold hearings" for the La Jolla Valley and adjacent Artesian Trails developments, were threshold hearings for the San Dieguito Community Plan and Carmel Valley Neighborhood 8.

(A "threshold determination" is a Council policy recently instituted by Mayor Roger Hedgecock. It could be loosely defined as "taking a reading" on a development's impact before allowing it to enter the City's planning process. This will supposedly work to the benefit of both public and private interests - on the one hand, stopping developments that would be detrimental to the environment and a drain on public service and, on the other hand, saving money for developers whose projects might well be rejected several years down the road.  The threshold determination's continued existence could well depend on the outcome of the mayoral election in early June.)

The La Jolla Valley and Artesian Trails hearings were continued to June 19 at the request of the developers, and the San Dieguito Community Plan continued at the request of the City of Del Mar and the Torrey Pines Planning Group.

Debate on continuing the La Jolla Valley and Artesian Trails project, which lies east and northeast of Fairbanks Ranch, was brief. Hedgecock described the La Jolla Valley as a symbol which, "if accepted in its present configuration would be a rejection of San Diego's growth management plan." He cited present adverse effects of growth of the 1-15 corridor and stated that the Rancho Penasquito and Rancho Bernardo Planning Groups were both opposed to the LJ Valley.  Proponents agreed to come back in June with what Hedgecock hoped would be a "far different plan."

The San Dieguito Communally Plan, promoted by a coalition of property owners, inspired more debate. Bruce Henderson, spokesperson for the owners, opposed a continuance and was supported by Councilman Bill Mitchell, in whose district the acreage lies. Henderson opposes attempts by the City of Del Mar to annex part of the land (Del Mar wants to annex 280 acres in order to have more control over the San Dieguito Lagoon Enhancement Program. The 22nd District Agricultural Association has designs on 101 acres of land in its search for more parking space and, in fact, has begun condemnation proceedings.)

Mitchell opposed a continuance because he felt that giving the go-ahead to prepare a community plan would not hasten development. Planning Director Diana Dugan agreed that the threshold policy would not allow a plan to come back to the Council again until February.  However, the overwhelming Council majority (vote was 8-1) preferred to postpone hearing the community plan until the San Dieguito River Regional Plan, encompassing all valley land from Del Mar to Lake Sutherland, is completed in June.

(As explained by Mike Stang of the SD Planning Department, the San Dieguito River Regional Plan was commissioned by the City of San Diego at the request of the Water Utilities Department which owns thousands of acres in the Pamo, San Pasqual and Lake Hodges area. It is not yet complete but is supposed to be by June. According to Tom Oberbauer of the SD County Planning Department, the County completed another plan, which covers Fairbanks Ranch to Lake Hodges, before Fairbanks was annexed to San Diego last year over the objections of the County. The City of Del Mar also has a plan for the far west end of the valley.)

In response to questions by Hedgecock, Planning Director Jack Van Cleave replied that until the regional plan is released in June, the City would not be realigning sewers or roads in the area, that the regional plan would be used as a general guideline for all other plans in the valley. The Council majority reasoned that the general planning should precede precise.

As to the municipal reorganization (annexation) proposed by Del Mar, Mitchell expressed reluctance to "give away the west side of San Diego to Del Mar." Mitchell sees the area as "the gateway to San Diego." (The Spectator referred to the valley as such many months ago, and it's obviously a common assumption to the caring observer.) However, he fears that, with Del Mar having jurisdiction over land west of I-5, there would be "two gateways." (the assumption being that both cities would claim one.  The Spectator assumes that the natural topography of the river valley delineates one gateway - no matter what the jurisdiction.)

Speaking in support of a continuance were Lynn Benn of the Torrey Pines Planning Group, Bill Healy from the City of Del Mar, Jay Powell of the Sierra Club and George Watkins of Whispering Palms. Benn was concerned that plans for the area as a whole were coming in at a much higher density than originally proposed.  Powell felt that "policy should come before the specific, an argument with which Councilmembers Martinez, Murphy and Gotch agreed.

In contrast to the San Dieguito Community Plan, the Carmel Valley Neighborhood 8 Precise Plan inspired little debate among councilmembers, who voted, 7-2 (Gotch and Hedgecock opposed), to hold a threshold hearing, shift 90 acres from "future" to "planned" urbanizing status and approve the precise plan.

Planner Mike Stang presented the staff recommendation to approve the shift because 90 acres was "of limited size," would not lead to urban sprawl and leapfrog development and would cause no significant loss of agricultural land. He defended the increase in density from 630 dwelling units to 1283 dwelling units on the basis of a new study which found the floodplain to be smaller than previously determined. He stated that Carmel Valley Rd. had been designated by Caltrans as future Route 56 and that landowners were setting aside 178 feet for the future freeway.

Speaking against the plan were Lynn Benn (TPPG). Jay Powell (Sierra Club) and Ron Strange (Coalition for Responsible Planning). Benn, describing the TPPG as "stewards of the Torrey Pines Reserve," asked how the land shift requested had grown from 45 acres to 90. She protested that not enough information had been out for public review. She pointed out that the problem of flooding on 1-5 during the 100-year flood had not been addressed, and she also claimed that figures from Caltrans and the City Engineer's office on how much land should be set aside for Route 56 were in conflict.

Jay Powell saw "no background information which puts this (plan) into context. Ask your staff for context."  Ron Strange recalled the original plan for Carmel Valley in which the cliffs were to be left alone, that the valley was promised to be open space (in the North City West General Plan), that siltation ponds in other areas like the ones proposed for Neighborhood 8 are already starting to erode. He concluded by asking, "Where does the rounding out (incorporating adjacent acreage into a neighborhood plan) stop? This (shift) seems not incremental but substantial."

Julie Dillon, spokesperson for owners in Neighborhood 8, responded that the first calculations (of acreage) only included the valley bottom but now included the bluffs, thus the 90 acres, She assured the Council that 55% of the neighborhood would remain open space, that the bluffs would not be disturbed, that the creekbed was not an environmentally significant part of the valley, that the density was increased because of a revised floodplain study acceptable to the Army Corps of Engineers, that there would be no concrete channeling but only a "cleaning and straightening" of the creekbed and the provision of detention basins.

Marvin Gerst, who owns a horse farm in the vicinity, spoke in support of the land shift and precise plan because the first link of an equestrian trail has now been included in it and hopefully would be continued by the Pardee Company in Neighborhood 8-A.

Benn, Powell and Strange again protested. Citing concerns about flooding, loss of prime agricultural land and counting a golf course as open space. A Mr. Justice from the adjacent Shaw Valley cautioned against the use of restricted pesticides which would contaminate runoff waters through the valley to the Penasquitos Lagoon, a bird sanctuary.

Councilmembers Bill Mitchell and Dick Murphy asked about transportation needs not only for Neighborhood 8 but the whole of North City West. Mitchell was seriously concerned that there is no provision to pave Black Mountain Rd. to accommodate traffic until Route 56 is built from 1-5 to 1-15. Staff could cite no traffic projections for this interim period of time, and Mitchell asked about the hazards of having people in nearly 10,000 new homes use the present Black Mountain Rd. Bill Schempers of the Engineering and Development Department stated that a relatively low number of cars (200-300 per day) now choose Black Mountain Rood instead of Miramar Road or the Del Dios Highway and that, eventually, Route 56 is "the most appropriate way to go." The Engineering Department determined that Carmel Valley Road could handle increased traffic until 56 is built and that paving Black Mountain Road would only encourage more traffic.

Councilmember Ed Struicksma, who said he has been working with Caltrans, asked what commitments there were for Route 56, to which Holder replied, "178 feet ... for six lanes." There was a supposition made that this freeway might eventually require eight lanes. Holder said there was no provision for offramps in the N8 precise plan and that future interchanges might incur into the 200-foot open space corridor. Julie Dillon repeated that N8 had precluded development in a 200-foot wildlife corridor and a 178-foot space for future Route 56. After the hearing.  PRC Engineering designers who had prepared the N8 precise plan confirmed Dillon's statement.

Holder also said that access to N8 would eventually be by interchanges, which would replace intersections now drawn in the plan.

When questioned by Mitchell,  Diana Dugan of the Planning Department said that the additional units will not impact public services, that the City does not have the  money to
purchase open space and that the plan provides space good for viewing.

Postscript. At the March meeting of the Torrey Pines Planning Group, Caltrans representative Jim Larson gave an overview of freeway and surface road improvements projected for the next several years, including the realignment and widening of Carmel Valley Road both east and west of 1-5.  Bill Schempers and Diana Dugan were also in attendance and reviewed the road system for Neighborhood 8.  Carmel Valley Road homeowners objected to the City's plans to demand 10 feet of right-of-way as a condition of remodeling, or 19 feet as a condition of subdivision, in order to add a center turn land and realign the road. (Environmental restrictions prevent taking right-of-way from the estuary side.)

Schempers defended San Diego's policy of holding property owners responsible for public benefits (safe roads, in this case) which they enjoy in other parts of the City. Richard
Mulligan, a CVR resident for 29 years, argued that widening and/or realigning the road was not benefiting the present owners but the new residents east of the freeway. "I would hope you would go back (to San Diego) and say we don't want this ... No one has ever said I'd to lose 10-19 feet of my property. This will lead to commercial use."

Ted Smith, also a CVR resident, contended that using land on the inland side of the road would take out Carnegie A-440, Soule's Market (former) and Little Bavaria (now the Del Mar Cattle Co). A fair compromise would be to use some land on either side of the road, which TPPG Chairperson Benn argued would set a harmful precedent.

Don Coordt, a resident of the City of Del Mar, protested the funneling of traffic from a freeway (Route 56), to a six-lane road (near Portofino Drive), to a three-lane, realigned road, to a two-lane road at the Del Mar city limits. "Where is the traffic supposed to go?" he asked.

Other information gathered at the meeting is as follows:

The Baldwin Company map for NCW Neighborhood 4 - north of N8 on the other side of Carmel Valley Road-has already been approved and would have to be renegotiated if additional room for Route 56 is needed. 

There is a possibility that a new Sorrento Valley Road could be built in the estuary along the SDG&E right-of-way.

There will be truck lanes built where 1-5 and 805 come together. 
The traffic volume here now is 100,000 vehicles a day, and 240,000 are projected for the year 2005.

Looking to the north of Del Mar, Schempers said that a Route 728 south of the San Dieguito River, which Del Mar does not want, would require an amendment to the San Diego General Plan, which at one time did specify a southern location.

Note: This piece appeared in the April 1984 issue of The Del Mar Spectator, A Monthly Newsletter for the Del Mar Community.  The Spectator was published by Jan McMillan in 1983 and 1984.

 

 
 

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