Carlsbad Development Supporters Submit 20,000 Petition Signatures
Supporters of a proposed 26-acre development on the site of the strawberry fields adjacent to Interstate 5 announced Wednesday that they submitted 20,000 petition signatures in a bid to force the Carlsbad City Council to take action on the plan or place it before voters.
Developer Rick Caruso of Caruso Affiliated has proposed setting aside around 85 percent of the property for open space and building shops, restaurants and a movie theater on the remainder of the land, which overlooks the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
He said the family-owned strawberry-growing operation on the property would continue, and that his firm would add picnic areas and walking trails to an area that's now generally inaccessible to the public.
"We have spent nearly three years getting to know the character of Carlsbad and the people who love and cherish their community," Caruso said. "In hundreds of community meetings with thousands of residents, we have developed a plan that seamlessly fits with the fabric of Carlsbad. And, now, the voters have shown strong support for the 85/15 Plan."
The 20,000 signatures represent nearly twice the number required — 15 percent of registered voters — to force the City Council to take action or put the matter to a special election.
The county Registrar of Voters Office has 30 days to determine whether the Caruso signature-gathering effort was sufficient.
If it’s determined there are enough signatures, the city has 10 days to decide whether to adopt the initiative or put it to the voters.
Diane Nygaard of the conservation group Preserve Calavera said by presenting the city with the citizens’ initiative, the developer has sidestepped a rigorous environmental review of the project under California’s Environmental Quality Act.
She is concerned that the project could be approved before any detailed engineering plans have been presented to the city or the community. The 300-page initiative specifies a 35-foot height limit, she said, but does not provide details of the buildings and their locations.
Proposition D, which was passed by Carlsbad voters in 2006, already preserves much of the land as open space, Nygaard said. She also questions the definition of open space used in the initiative.
Bryce Ross, a vice president of Caruso Affiliated, said the company has already presented a 4,000-page proposal to the city. He said the plan would add more open space beyond the 155 acres preserved under Proposition D.
“We create an additional 21 acres of new open space that’s free from structures other than two things: the Carlsbad Strawberry Company Farm stand and a farm to table restaurant,” Ross said, “And the reason those two uses are there is to make agriculture sustainable.“
Nygaard said she hopes more details of the development will become available for public discussion if the initiative is put to a vote.