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Economy

Carlsbad Residents Divided On Agua Hedionda Lagoon Development

The strawberry fields east of Interstate Five in Carlsbad, where the proposed Agua Hedionda 85/15 Project would be built, Aug. 5, 2015
Alison St John
The strawberry fields east of Interstate Five in Carlsbad, where the proposed Agua Hedionda 85/15 Project would be built, Aug. 5, 2015

Carlsbad Residents Divided On Agua Hedionda Lagoon Development
Carlsbad residents are divided on a developer’s proposal to build an upscale outdoor shopping center on a North County lagoon. The Agua Hedionda Lagoon Project comes before the Carlsbad City Council for a vote Tuesday.

A developer’s proposal to build an upscale outdoor shopping center on a North County lagoon comes before the Carlsbad City Council for a vote Tuesday. Residents are divided on the issue.

The new development would overlook the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The Carlsbad City Council has three choices: Approve the new shopping center outright, send it to the ballot for a special election, or study it for 30 days.

This would be the first project developer Rick Caruso builds in San Diego County though he has built popular shopping centers in Los Angeles. Caruso rejects the term “mall” and instead describes his projects as “outdoor lifestyle destinations.”

At a news conference to announce the project in May, the L.A.-based developer described how the project would preserve 85 percent of the 200-acre property as open space.

"It’s about incorporating nature trails, outdoor classrooms, amphitheaters, places for people to enjoy the view lines and we’re going to be bringing the best minds and the planners in order to do that," Caruso said.

The shopping center would be built on 15 percent of the land, next to Interstate 5 and facing the lagoon.

Some residents, like Dan Burton, want the council to let the people vote on the plan. Burton said he didn’t know about the project until he was asked to sign an initiative that he thought would put it on the ballot.

The Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, looking east toward 85 percent of the land that would be preserved under the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan, July 2015.
Beverley Woodworth
The Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, looking east toward 85 percent of the land that would be preserved under the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan, July 2015.

“My main objection is the way the initiative process is being abused and high jacked by corporate company interests," Burton said, "and to me it’s a perversion and an subversion of the democratic process.”

But other residents, like Michael Robinson, were invited to outreach meetings put on by the developer before the signatures were collected. Robinson likes the project and wants the City Council to approve it.

“Everything that I’ve seen from that vendor has been top notch so it would be great if he brought that same level of commitment and standards to a property in Carlsbad," Robinson said.

Caruso said in May he believes it would take about 18 months to build once they break ground.

“I like to get things done right but I like to get them done quickly," Caruso said. "I’d like to get this opened up in 2018, that would be my goal and that’s what we’re going to be pushing hard for.”

If Carlsbad decides to put the project to a public vote, a special election will cost the city half a million dollars.

If approved, the project will need to go through review by the California Coastal Commission.