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One Paseo Opponents Turn In 60,000 Signatures To Stall Carmel Valley Project

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Photo by Claire Trageser

City Council President Sherri Lightner, Carmel Valley resident Ken Farinsky and San Diego Community Planners Committee Chairman Joe La Cava speak at a news conference before handing in signatures to block the City Council's approval of the One Paseo development, March 25, 2015.

Opponents of a mixed-use development in Carmel Valley turned in about 60,000 petition signatures Wednesday in an effort to stall the development until after a public vote is held.

Opponents of a mixed-use development in Carmel Valley turned in about 60,000 petition signatures Wednesday in an effort to stall the development until after a public vote is held.

San Diego's City Council approved the $750 million, 23.6-acre, mixed-use housing, retail and office project earlier this month on a 7-2 vote.

A group called Protect San Diego's Neighborhoods then set about collecting 33,000 valid signatures, the required amount to force a referendum on the council's decision. If the group is successful, it would be San Diego's fifth referendum since December 2013. Since 2012, there have been only four local ballot referendum measures combined between the five other biggest cities in California.

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But One Paseo supporters launched a counterattack to the referendum drive, mailing out fliers and hiring people to ask voters to take back their signatures. Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for the project's developer Kilroy Realty, said they turned in 29,552 requests for signature withdrawals.

"If all of theirs are valid and all of ours are valid, then obviously they don't have enough signatures," she said, adding that "it will be a long 30 days" until the results are announced.

About 56,000 signatures were collected during the last referendum drive in San Diego, a successful effort to overturn the council's decision to raise the city's minimum wage. In that effort, minimum wage supporters said they collected 2,000 requests to rescind signatures.

At a press conference Wednesday before the anti-One Paseo signatures were handed over to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, City Council President Sherri Lightner said the petition drive showed not just the opinions of people who live near the proposed development, but all San Diegans.

"Beyond One Paseo, they realized the far-reaching effects of the council's decision to ignore the community planning process," Lightner said. "Once San Diegans learned that the approval of One Paseo was about more than Carmel Valley, that it might set a dangerous precedent for developers to bring massive new projects to their own communities, they acted quickly to add their names to the cause."

Laing, the Kilroy spokeswoman, said voters liked the proposed project when they heard about it.

"The huge, unprecedented number of signature withdrawal requests indicates that a lot of people felt they were misled by the signature gatherers for the referendum," Laing said. "There's no question that the more people learn about One Paseo, the actual project, and the more they learn about the facts, just like the City Council, they tend to support One Paseo."

If the petition is verified, the City Council will then vote on whether to overturn their decision or let the voters decide in June 2016. Laing said while she has documented instances of signature gatherers lying to voters about the One Paseo project, her clients likely won't consider a legal challenge to the petition because a legal challenge against a referendum to overturn the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update was not successful.

Ken Farinsky, a Carmel Valley resident who helped organize the One Paseo opposition, said they had difficulty hiring enough signature gatherers.

The One Paseo developers funded a meaningless petition to keep San Diego's Chargers football team from leaving. Laing said her clients started that petition so they could hire signature gatherers before One Paseo opponents snatched them up, and always planned to actually use the signature gatherers on their pro-One Paseo effort.

"Our real goal there was to take the best people and have them working for us," Laing said. "We did that deliberately because we wanted the best people presenting information on our side."

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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