Berry disconcerting

More shopping, less strawberry picking in Carlsbad's strawberry fields?

Field of developers' dreams
  • Field of developers' dreams

The future developer of the 203-acre California Strawberry Farm, east of I-5 on Cannon Road, may be trying an end-run around city hall and Carlsbad citizens.

Last month, the owners of the land at the pick-your-own strawberry fields announced plans to develop some of the acreage just east of I-5 on Cannon Road, into an upscale shopping center.

The ole berry stand in the fields

The ole berry stand in the fields

The property owner, Caruso Affiliated, says only 27 acres closest to the freeway will be used. The remainder will stay in strawberry production, continuing with the current third-generation strawberry-farming family. Plans also call for an amphitheater and nature trails overlooking the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

On May 19, the Carlsbad City Council was advised that Caruso Affiliated would try to place the development directly to the voters through the initiative process. This basically eliminates the city’s planning and public-hearing phases and reduces the developer’s costly regulatory hoops (although the developer reportedly said he will pay for the cost of bringing the issue to the voters).

Some say the initiative tactic used by big developers is a ploy to sway a generally uninformed electorate; or, in some cases, hoodwink them with slick or misleading campaigns. Additionally, councilmembers usually get a little nervous when angry mobs of voters show up at public hearings, usually opposed to large-scale development projects. Thus, councilmembers are more likely to follow public sentiment and vote against a project.

Most recently, talk of an initiative campaign convinced the City of Carson to offer land for the proposed Chargers/Raiders stadium. Locally, other initiative attempts have either stalled, reduced, or stopped projects in the past decade: a second Walmart in San Marcos, a ban on big-box retailers in San Diego, developing the remaining Ecke poinsettia farmland in Encinitas, One Paseo commercial development in Carmel Valley, and in last November’s election, the proposed 430-home development on the old Escondido Country Club.

As reported in the Coast News, the developer has lined up big guns for the signature-gathering drive: former planning commissioner Bill Dominquez, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation’s Maureen Simons, and former Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce CEO Carlton Lund.

The group will formalize the ballot measure’s name soon. They have the next six months to collect petition signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in Carlsbad in order to qualify for the June 2016 ballot.

But Carlsbad residents should have seen this coming ten years ago, when voters passed another initiative, Proposition D. The measure set aside as permanent open space 300 acres along Cannon Road, which included some of the strawberry fields and the hills above the lagoon. Some Carlsbad activists say voters were duped, thinking open space was a good thing, but not realizing the rest of land could then be rezoned as commercial.

At its May 19 meeting, the city council approved city staff beginning its review of the project’s already submitted environmental impact report, which is said to be over 4000 pages.

As a local resident said sarcastically while paying for his strawberries at the little stand in the middle of the fields, “Just what we need, another shopping center.”

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Comments

The world doesn't need more retail space, especially in Carlsbad, which is seeing its mall downsized. More retail activity will be transacted on the 'net with each passing year, meaning that fewer retail stores and shops will be needed. I see plenty of chronically-vacant retail space here along the 78 corridor every day.

I really doubt that an initiative will work in Carlsbad. They too were hoodwinked by that ballot measure bought and paid for by Legoland about twenty years ago. But the folks in Carlsbad are getting protective of their way of life, and developing that land with a shopping center isn't going to go over well with most of them. If there is an initiative, I predict it will fail, no matter how many lies the proponents tell, and how much they spend. No, the window of opportunity to hoodwink No County voters is just about closed now.

Huh? LegoLand is a home run for the city and entire region.

Home run? You'll need to explain that in detail.

Caruso's shopping center would be at I-5 and Cannon Road, near the large Carlsbad outlet mall and a row of auto dealers. Traffic congestion on I-5 in that area is already bad. Another large shopping center there would turn that segment of I-5 into near-permanent gridlock.

Hopefully Carlsbad voters are smart enough to figure that out.

Traffic congestion is at its worst during morning and evening commuting hours; shopping hours differ from those. Sales tax revenue is a good source of funds to run the City unless we shift the burden to residents.

It's understandable that you don't know the local traffic patterns in Carlsbad, if you are a staff person for Mr. Caruso's company in Los Angeles.

If you were a resident of Carlsbad and familiar with the city, you would also know that Carlsbad is already flush with sales tax revenue from numerous malls and major hotels/resorts including the La Costa and Aviara resorts. But, it's understandable that someone who doesn't live here wouldn't know those things.

‎Rebuttal:
Berry Misinformed To the San Diego Reader, 1 of 3

Dear Madam or Sir,

Concerning the article (“Berry disconcerting,” 5/29) regarding the newly unveiled Carlsbad Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan, for 85 percent open space and 15 percent visitor retail; we would like to provide additional information to clarify some the article's misinformation with the facts.

The article says, "The future developer of the 203-acre California Strawberry Farm, east of I-5 on Cannon Road, may be trying an end-run around city hall and Carlsbad citizens."

The truth is: Caruso Affiliated has been dedicated to seeking input and listening to the Carlsbad community for over three years. We've met with community leaders, and over 4,000 Carlsbad residents at community meetings, bus tours, and coffees in homes of residents all across Carlsbad.

The article suggests an attempted "end run" around the council.

The truth is: This Mayor and City Council has led Carlsbad into the ranks of one of America's most livable, most fiscally responsible and best-run cities in California. While other cities have filed for bankruptcy, Carlsbad’s elected officials amassed over $65 million in rainy day reserves – more than half the city's annual expenses – while delivering unsurpassed city services, an unmatched quality of life, and happy residents.

The article says, "On May 19, the Carlsbad City Council was advised that Caruso Affiliated would try to place the development directly to the voters through the initiative process. This basically eliminates the city’s planning and public-hearing phases and reduces the developer’s costly regulatory hoops (although the developer reportedly said he will pay for the cost of bringing the issue to the voters)."

The truth is: Your writer is correct: Caruso Affiliated has committed that the 85/15 Plan will not cost Carlsbad residents a penny. But your writer is misinformed when he writes that the initiative "eliminates" the city's planning and public hearing phases. The unmatched level of community outreach and input and over three years of open-to-the-public meetings and neighborhood coffees that we've hosted is indicative of our commitment to transparency and attempts to reflect the character and village community feel of Carlsbad. Everything provided for within the 85/15 Plan is deeply rooted in years of community outreach and based on direct input from Carlsbad residents.

(1 of 3 comments; to be continued.)

What bullshit! The reason Caruso inc. has been at it for years, couldn't get approval, and is in fact, by virtue of the circulating petition, AN END RUN AGAINST THE CITY AND IT'S RESIDENTS. Carlsbad should, with it's "rainy day" surplus, buy the land and turn it into a beautiful city park! This company and it's shills can spin it anyway they want but in the end it still is a commercial, for profit, "plan". If they are serious about "working" with the city and it's residents then pull the damn petition and go through the proper channels! They won't because they can't win there!

‎Rebuttal:
Berry Misinformed To the San Diego Reader, 2 of 3

The article says, "As reported in the Coast News, the developer has lined up big guns for the signature-gathering drive: former planning commissioner Bill Dominquez, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation’s Maureen Simons, and former Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce CEO Carlton Lund."

The truth is: The article failed to mention one the campaign’s most enthusiastic backers: the Carlsbad Strawberry Company’s President and owner Jimmy Ukegawa. Jimmy’s family has been farming this land for over 60 years and Jimmy has endorsed the 85/15 Plan as a responsible way to ensure that strawberry farming is sustainable and remains for future generations of Carlsbad residents to enjoy. The Carlsbad Strawberry Company has been forced to reduce its farming operations on the land due to increased competition from large commercial growers and rising production costs. With the 85/15 Plan, the Carlsbad Strawberry Company will be able to double the size of its farming operations and ensure that this beloved Carlsbad-based small business flourishes and is here for generations to come by expanding and diversifying its crops and its ability to sell its produce direct-to-consumers on the very same property where it’s grown strawberries since the 1950’s.

(2 of 3 comments; to be continued.)

‎Rebuttal:
Berry Misinformed To the San Diego Reader, 3 of 3

The article says, "But Carlsbad residents should have seen this coming ten years ago, when voters passed another initiative, Proposition D. The measure set aside as permanent open space 300 acres along Cannon Road, which included some of the strawberry fields and the hills above the lagoon. Some Carlsbad activists say voters were duped, thinking open space was a good thing, but not realizing the rest of land could then be rezoned as commercial."

The truth is: Carlsbad voters are an informed and intelligent lot and unlikely to be "duped" as the article suggests. The voter-approved Prop. D preserved 50 acres of this privately owned property for visitor commercial and the rest for open space. This land has never been rezoned, as the article states. However, Prop. D's definition of "open space" is an area of misinformation as it allows for the construction of a variety of civic buildings, aquariums, libraries, art galleries and even museums throughout the “open space.” The 85/15 Plan goes further than Prop. D, and truly protects open space. By law, the 85/15 Plan will prohibit building within the open space and will create an additional 21 acres of publicly accessible open space, by cutting nearly in half the amount of allowable commercial space, down from 50 acres to 26 acres. And 85/15 defines open space the way everyday people do: as land that is protected and 100% free from all buildings and dedicated solely for passive use and environmentally responsible public access. This is why the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation’s board has unanimously endorsed the 85/15 Plan as the right way to protect the Agua Hedionda Lagoon’s watershed and the land on the south shore of the lagoon -- and Carlsbad's future.

For more facts, we encourage your readers to visit us at www.OpenSpaceTheRightWay.com

(3 of 3 comments.)

Let's put it this way. . . anyone who fills my mailbox with what must be by now a dozen propaganda pieces and is throwing large amounts of money at cable teevee advertising, not to mention deploying PR flacks in all directions and doing some serious web "search engine optimizations" so that dissenting voices are buried six pages down in the results, should be scrutinized very carefully.

Oh, and when you call your development "Open Space the Right Way," that's nearly a dead giveaway that it isn't. The "right way," that is.

I trust this effort just about as far as I'd spit a dead rat.

You refer to flacks, right after JanetteLittler makes a massive, three part comment. She doesn't exactly mention her role, but at the end invites the readers to "visit us" at a linked website. So, your comment regarding flacks was right on; she's apparently one of them. Caruso is missing no opportunity to drive its propaganda home, including making comments to Reader blog posts.

Sounds like the article's author Ken Harrison has made up his mind based on misstated & incomplete facts and is now trying to convince readers to be against it as well. Like several thousand other Carlsbad residents, we have taken the time to learn the details of the 85/15 Plan by attending the community meetings and speaking directly to the Caruso folks. I have also read the 303-page Specific Plan that has been submitted to the City and sure enough, everything they have said they would be doing is now committed to in their filing. Along with over 4,300 pages of environmental & traffic studies, their filings include the detailed plans for restoring & preserving the open space while maintaining and even increasing the amount of agriculture. Exactly the opposite of this article's headline, "More shopping, less strawberry picking in Carlsbad's strawberry fields?", there will be a big increase in both strawberry picking as well as other new crops that will be added and served in a new farm-to-table restaurant right on the property. PLEASE. don't take my word for it or anyone else's, look it up for yourself. The full Specific Plan and 4,300+ page report can be found on the Carlsbad City website: http://www.carlsbadca.gov/cityhall/clerk/initiativedocs.asp. Start with reading the very first page of the Specific Plan to see what they are committing to. Get the real facts and then make up your minds.

I just love comments like yours. The reporter does his job, provides a brief but balanced report, and he's accused of bias or having "made up his mind", and "trying to convince readers to be against it as well." Actually the way this works is that comments come in, and there is often some debate. If you had started your comment with the second sentence, its presence here would carry more clout. The unnecessary shot at Ken didn't add anything to your statements, and actually detracted. Oh, and the blog posters at the Reader aren't responsible for the headlines.

This "Open Space the Right Way" is no different than Kilroy Realty's PR blitz for their One Paseo project. If you go to the Open Space FB page, most supporters seem to be realtors, construction affiliated or business interests who would no doubt profit from the distruction of the lagoon's surrounding open space. Traffic is another concern for the locals and by the tone of the responses, the citizens of Carlsbad don't seem to be on board with this project. Sure Caruso Affiliated touts massive local support just like Kilroy. Don't believe a word of it.

I would imagine that all those people who have signed their "vote" didn't realize, they were giving up their rights to appeal anything for the next 15 years regarding the property Caruso will acquire, unless somebody wakes up. Instead, they just believed what they were told by the petitioners who were paid.

STORY FOLLW UP: It was announced that the anchor tenant will be Nordstrom. And the slick ads touting the "saving of the strawberry fields" have already started on TV.

Here are the facts, Many citizens voted for proposition D and Proposition E its competing measure to preserve this land. Prop D, one with the help of many supportive at the government level won by a few votes. One of the Carlsbad officials was even caught removing the Prop E signs and BUSTED. The difference between Prop D and E was Prop D has a loophole. Caruso is walking through it .This development means more traffic, brick an mortar and loss of the current view corridor. We do not need more tax base, Carlsbad is flush with cash. If anything Carlsbad Government should be focused on the quality of life that includes less traffic, natural or farm land and view corriders and security of Carlsbad by marching us towards the path of being energy,water and food self-sufficient.

Important to note there are around four seperate parcels...the one along the freeway, and two that make up the large majority of strawberry fields and this 1.4 acre parcel owned by WINTER RAY R & CONSTANCE L M REVOCABLE TRUST APN 211-010-05-00 smack dead in the middle of this development. Ive always wonder about it. Maybe you can turn something up about this Trust and its beneficiaries.

Nothing is inevitable my friend. I remember city staff telling me at the community meetings, you meant the used to be strawberry fields when Lennar was pushing for a million square feet of development with SDGE and the CIVIC CENTER. This development should go to a vote for the people AGAIN on simple context for voters to understand. Develop or not to develop.

Should the city council accept these 10,000 signatures to implement the 85/15 initiative and allow for the development, the citizens of Carlsbad have one more card to play and thats a referendum to recall the city council decision.So the cleanest and fairest solution is for council to set this up for a vote and reject the 85/15 specific plan initiative when Caruso turns in the 10,000 signaturtes and ask the voters to decide about it.Of course there is the language of Prop E which could be retooled as well which most notably created or should I say breathe life into an existing farmland zoning designation.

The Strawberry fields are already meaningful and yes there are people who would match Caruso's offer to buy this land and set it up in a farm trust. For whatever reason ENRON, I mean SDGE isnt interest in farming community parks or welfare of this town. There are good people in the company but the core operates on a level that has too much power over politics in San Diego County. AB 117 and other community choice aggregate laws are the only way to curb them but that's another story.

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