Chula Vista city councilmember Patricia Aguilar held a town-hall meeting on Monday, May 4, at the Hub inside Otay Ranch Town Center. She wanted to hear public comments about the proposal by developer Baldwin & Sons to construct 600 new residential units on a vacant lot adjacent to the mall.
Aguilar received many emails and phone calls expressing concern over the developer's request to change the city’s general plan, which in 2005 designated the property as retail only. Instead, Baldwin & Sons wants to turn the area into a mixed-used village with a two-acre park, a Residence Inn Marriot, 15,000 to 30,000 square feet of mixed retail, and 600 new residential units.
Baldwin & Sons bought the property in 1993 with the intention of turning the lot into “big box” retail space. However, Baldwin senior VP Stephen Haase explained, “What started this discussion was looking at that site and realizing that there really weren’t the types of retailers out there that we could put on that site.”
He further explained that their retail space would compete with the future 300,000 square feet of additional retail that Otay Ranch Town Center has approved; and the Millenia project on the other side of the mall, which will include 2983 residential units and 3.5 million square feet of commercial space.
About 20 community members in attendance expressed concerns over water shortages, impacted schools, public safety, lack of employment opportunities within the neighborhood, lack of parking, and increased traffic.
According to Nick Lee of Baldwin & Sons, “This project actually reduces traffic. It takes it from 12,000 daily trips down to 6300 daily trips.”
Community members started to talk all at once and someone shouted, “That’s absolutely bogus.”
“The city needs to do a traffic survey…. I also even think we should get an independent traffic survey out here,” Rodney Caudillo said. “I don’t agree with the trip counts going down. I would like to know where they got that from.”
Another Eastlake resident said, “You should not be taking commercial out and continuing that strategy because the schools are overcrowded, the streets are overcrowded, the plazas are overcrowded, everything is overcrowded.”
“It’s gonna choke the growth of the mall,” said Lynda Twork, owner of Kids On The Go childcare. She signed a ten-year lease at the Otay mall. She feels that offering more retail is a better option.
Haase disagreed, saying he consulted with the Otay Ranch Town Center owners, who welcomed more housing.
Twork responded, “They didn’t come to us as business owners and ask us. We were not involved.”
Councilmembers will vote to approve or deny the project next Tuesday, May 12, at a city-council meeting.
“I have not made up my mind about the project,” Aguilar said. “As far as I know, none of the other councilmembers have either.”
In an interview afterward, Haase explained what will happen if the city denies the proposed design. “We have no choice. We will go back to our original plan. It’s a retail project. We’ll go back and see if we can get those tenants we couldn’t get before.”
(corrected 5/7, 4:00 p.m.)