La Costa development on hold for now

CARLSBAD — A local organization has filed a lawsuit against the La Costa Town Square development, causing the hotly debated project to be put on hold for the time being.
North County Advocates, or NCA, is a grassroots organization that formed to speak on behalf of the community against the La Costa Town Square project. They are pushing for a redesign of the development that will better suit the community it intends to service.
The project currently features extensive parking and a “big box fortress” that will clog up the already busy streets surrounding the project site, said Pat Bleha of the NCA.
“It’s not that we want to stop the development,” Bleha said. “We want them to live up to what they said — a community shopping facility.”
With the lawsuit filed, Aspen Properties had three options to choose from before moving on: redesign the project and apply again, appeal the project to the state to keep it as is or drop the project altogether. As of now, the developers have filed an appeal to meet a time constraint and put the project on hold.
Aspen Properties also hit another obstacle preventing the completion of their project — a letter of denial from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, or CRWQCB. The original project design failed to comply with all of the water quality standards that it must meet in order to move forward.
The project was cited with “inappropriate mitigation and inadequate avoidance,” meaning they had an opportunity to avoid the wetlands in the area and they didn’t demonstrate that, said Chiara Clemente with the Regional Water Board. Although the denial letter was received by the developers in July, the information was never shared with the public. City Council approved the progression of the project, but the developers must now wait until their design complies with the environmental standards.
Progression on the project design prior to the lawsuit has been “unconventional,” Clemente said. In most cases, developers meet with the CRWQCB before they get too far with a design to address any issues from the beginning. Aspen Properties waited until the design was nearly complete before meeting with the board, only to find flaws in their project.
“They gave us everything we needed, it was just a bad project,” Clemente said. “We said, ‘we can’t approve this project they way you’ve proposed it.’”
While the project is on hold, the developers have agreed to meet with the CRWQCB and come up with a design to comply with all of their water quality standards. Per the CRWQCB’s suggestion, Aspen Properties is also planning on meeting with other agencies, like the Army Corps of Engineers, to prevent any obstacles in the future, Clemente said.
As the developers work on the environmental factors concerning the project, the NCA hopes the redesign will also include the community’s request to eliminate the big box “fortress” and parking with the new proposal, Bleha said.
“We want to improve it and make it worthy of our community,” Bleha said. “The most satisfying thing is when you give people hope that we might be able to do this.”

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