Residents battle proposed subdivision in Olde Carlsbad

A newly formed group of more than 100 residents is working to stop the construction of 40 homes planned for the edge of the Olde Carlsbad neighborhood overlooking the Buena Vista Lagoon and Hosp Grove.

Additional traffic and noise from the homes in the proposed Pio Pico subdivision would disrupt the quiet, small-town character that residents love, say members of the nonprofit Olde Carlsbad Voters Coalition.

“We’re also concerned about the larger issue of infill developments that seem to be proliferating around every corner” in Carlsbad’s older neighborhoods, said coalition member Keith Hunter in an emailed response to questions. “We're not against development per se, but rather advocate smart and sustainable development that is consistent with the character and infrastructure of the area.”

The proposed 12-acre subdivision would be built at Carlsbad’s northern boundary, about a block east of Interstate 5, with access from the northern end of Pio Pico Drive, which is a narrow two-lane street with no sidewalks, and from Spruce Street, which is about one block long.

Not everyone in the neighborhood opposes the subdivision.

Steve Conboy, a Spruce Street resident for 12 years, said he likes the project. His home is just a few feet from what would be the eastern entrance to the subdivision.

“The developer has done a nice job,” Conboy said. “Carlsbad is not a sleepy little town anymore. Growth is part of our economy.”

The owners of the Pio Pico property, the late Robert Siegel and his wife, Doris, lived there for many years, and the land remains in the Siegel family trust.

Robert Siegel and his brother John, who died three weeks apart in the summer of 2014, were businessmen and owned a number of North County movie theaters. They opened the Plaza Camino Real theater beside what is now The Shoppes at Carlsbad mall, and owned several older Oceanside theaters including the downtown Crest and the Star. They also built the now-closed Valley Drive-In theater in the San Luis Rey Valley in the 1960s.

The three main structures on the Pio Pico property were built in 1925, 1926 and 1948, according to documents on file with the city. Those buildings would be razed to make way for the proposed subdivision. The property is mostly open grassland, recently plowed for fire season, and some of it was used to grow avocados until the 1970s.

Some of the homes nearby on Pio Pico date to the 1950s and are built in a variety of sizes and styles. However, residents were upset last year when traffic increased from a cluster of 17 new three- to five-bedroom homes built by Shea Homes on Lanai Court just off Pio Pico.

More tract homes on Pio Pico would be “completely incongruous with the character of this historical neighborhood,” said resident and coalition member Cynthia DeCuir in a June 4 letter urging the city to deny the Pio Pico project. It sounds more like “a design for horse stables than for human beings to dwell,” she said in her letter.

True Life Companies of Newport Beach is the project’s developer. The company builds master-planned communities in California, Arizona, Colorado and Hawaii.

“The Siegel property has historically been zoned for single-family residential and, to that end, we submitted our application for a standard residential subdivision, which complies with the existing land-use designations,” said True Life’s senior director of community development, Susan Lindquist, in an email on Friday. Projected home sizes range from 2,900 to 4,100 square feet on lots averaging 8,400 square feet.

The company has conducted extensive community outreach including launching the website www.siegelproperty.com, door-to-door visits, in-home meetings and direct mail, she said.

Some residents have offered suggestions, she said, and the company is working with the city to determine how those suggestions might be incorporated in the plan.

Another concern of many residents is that the Pio Pico site will have to be elevated six to 10 feet with fill so that the sewer lines will drain into the city’s treatment system. The residents say the neighborhood’s sewer and storm drains already are overburdened and frequently clog.

Members of the coalition have held two neighborhood fundraisers to help pay for studies, specialists and attorneys to fight the project.

Also adding to the issues is a problem with rights-of-way. Over the years, some homeowners have built fences and added landscaping in the city’s right-of-way along some streets in the neighborhood, including Pio Pico and nearby Highland Drive, which would take some of the traffic from the eastern side of the proposed subdivision. Those additions have made the streets narrower and eliminated parking spots in places.

City officials announced last month they soon will send notices to Highland Drive residents to remove “landscaping, boulders, rocks, fences and walls” from the city’s right-of-way, which extends 30 feet from the centerline of the road. So far, no notices have gone out to Pio Pico residents.

The project application and the issues raised by residents are under review, Principal Planner Teri Delcamp said by email. Also, the city is preparing environmental documents required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) .

“Residents will have the opportunity to provide written comments on the CEQA document when it is released,” Delcamp said.

Residents also can speak to the city Planning Commission when it reviews the project, she said. So far, no date has been set for the Planning Commission hearing or for the release of the environmental documents.

philip.diehl@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @phildiehl

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