REGION — With the developer of a proposed Carmel Valley project and its opponents accusing each other of misrepresentation and deceptive tactics, a group trying to overturn a San Diego City Council decision approving the complex submitted a petition March 25 to the Registrar of Voters with what they believe are more than enough signatures for a referendum.
City Council President Sherri Lightner, whose district includes Carmel Valley, and Councilwoman Marti Emerald opposed One Paseo in a 7-2 vote on Feb. 23 that changes the zoning to allow Kilroy Realty Corporation to build an approximately 1.4-million-square-foot mixed-use project on the 23.6-acre lot.
Previous zoning allowed 510,000 square feet of office space on the site, located on the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real.
Lightner was on hand to turn in the petition with more than 61,000 signatures. For a referendum, 33,224 signatures representing 5 percent of registered voters were needed.
In a separate campaign, Kilroy reported that nearly 30,000 people submitted requests to have their names removed from the petition.
All signatures must be verified by April 24 before any action can be taken. If enough are valid, the project will again be presented to the City Council.
Members can reconsider the issue and either overturn the approval or let voters decide the project’s fate during a special election or the June 2016 primary.
Following the February City Council vote a neighborhood coalition of residents, community planners, taxpayers and small businesses known as Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods began gathering signatures for a referendum.
They accused Kilroy of trying to thwart their efforts by circulating a phony Chargers‐related petition outside of San Diego city limits to draw signature gatherers away from locations in the city and deploying signature blockers to intimidate and harass circulators and signers.
They also said Kilroy launched a rescission campaign intended to trick voters into removing their names from the referendum petition.
“Kilroy’s attempts to torpedo our efforts and manipulate San Diego voters are despicable,” Jeff Powers, spokesman for Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods, said. “More importantly, however, these extreme actions show that Kilroy is desperate. The company knows that if our efforts succeed and One Paseo is placed before voters, it will be soundly defeated.”
According to a press release, there are documented abuses that include blockers spitting in the face of referendum circulators, cursing at petition signers, surrounding petitioners’ tables to separate them from the public and verbally harassing and intimidating shoppers at stores where circulators are located.
Two cease-and-desist orders were presented to Kilroy.
“It’s been unprecedented,” Powers said. “I’d be surprised if we ever see something like this in San Diego again.”
Powers stressed that his group is not opposed to development.
“Our group is not about killing growth,” he said. “We support and advocated for an 800,000-square-foot development on the site. We are for responsible growth.”
In a press release Kilroy accuses Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods of using a “highly deceptive referendum signature-gathering effort to overturn the City Council approval.”
They said the effort was bankrolled by Orange County-based Donahue Schriber, the owner of an adjacent retail center.
Kilroy claims Donahue Schriber’s referendum signature-gatherers made false statements such as One Paseo being built with taxpayer dollars on a wetland or that it threatens endangered species.
Other untrue statements include that the project will destroy an existing park and prevent the city from being able to afford a Chargers stadium.
“The irony in these misrepresentations is that One Paseo will be the most environmentally sustainable project ever built in San Diego,” Rachel Laing, spokeswoman for One Paseo, said.
“This project will transform a vacant graded lot into acres of public open space, provide affordable housing, create thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity — all via private investment.
“Clearly, San Diegans in large numbers felt compelled to withdraw their signatures from the referendum petition once they learned more about One Paseo,” Laing said. “We’re thankful so many San Diegans chose to listen to and consider the facts about this important and iconic smart-growth project and took the time to rescind their signatures if they felt they’d been misled.
“The fact is, the more people know about One Paseo, the more inclined they are to support it,” Laing said.
Powers said he is confident a sufficient number of signatures will be verified for the referendum.
“We’re just very pleased,” he said. “The numbers speak for themselves about what the community thinks about this project.”