CARLSBAD — After a marathon session, the City Council approved the long-awaited and controversial Village and Barrio Master Plan update July 10.
The plan, which has been in the works for four years, was approved by a 3-1 vote, with Councilwoman Cori Schumacher opposed. Mayor Matt Hall recused himself for a conflict of interest, as he owns property in the Village.
It took about three hours for staff to present, residents to speak and the council to discuss the 300-page plan, which calls for a host of updates.
One of the most discussed, and controversial, was the height limit for new construction in the Village. The new plan will allow for buildings up to 45 feet, although those must meet conditions such as setbacks and roof protrusions.
The council, though, did unanimously agree on all projects in the Village requiring approval by the City Council instead of the Planning Commission, as was proposed.
Schumacher proposed a compromise to the height limit, saying a 35-foot limit should be set, with an incentive to developers to include more affordable housing, thus receiving credits or fewer fees to cut costs and ensure a project’s financial viability. If a developer were to include more affordable housing, they would receive a waiver to build up to 45 feet.
Schumacher also attempted to include more specificity for architectural designs to match those already in the Village. She, like many residents, said it is crucial for the neighborhoods to keep their charm, identity and small-town, beach feel.
Schumacher’s concern focused on subjective versus objective standards.
Another concern for Schumacher was the review process for projects in the Village, which the other council members agreed must be protected. Although she lobbied for a design review board, the council settled on keeping large or major projects before the council for approval.
“Allow 45 feet for projects that only build affordable housing on site,” Schumacher said. “Those would be the projects that we say … streamline this and you don’t need to bring all the way to council. With everything else, you would need to go through council and have the 35-foot overlay.”
Councilman Keith Blackburn said the 45-foot limit makes it difficult to maintain a quaint feel. He voiced his concerns for those limits and said it is important for the council, and future ones, to ensure a project’s integrity for the sake of the Village.
Blackburn also noted communication with residents over the past several months and years about height limits, which came back with support for a 35-foot limit.
Councilman Michael Schumacher (no relation) said the 45-foot limit is a concern. Schumacher, who works in real estate, said his concerns weren’t as high because many properties and lot sizes would not be viable for a 45-foot high building.
“There’s a lot of different factors that go into a project,” Schumacher said. “I don’t see how 45 feet, historically, has been a problem and has not just brought 45-foot projects. There’s been a lot of adaptive reuse. Not every developer is going to be able to hit that maximum.”
Councilman Mark Packard said there are two ways for the city to include more housing — building out or building up. If neither is done, the city is in a “lose-lose” situation and could end up like Encinitas seeking resident approval for every project.
“I would rather have open space, so I want 45 feet,” Packard added.
Mobility, meanwhile, was another source of discussion as the plan calls for enhancing cycling, walking and connectivity between the Village and Barrio. The bicycle plan, according to Scott Donnell, senior planner, said residents were concerned with safety.
Developed with the San Diego Biking Coalition, the two entities incorporated cycle tracks, which separate bike paths and roads with a median. Some residents voiced concerns along some stretches and cautioned the city to research those possible dangers.
The Barrio, meanwhile, may undergo a name change soon. Resident Gil Alvarado said he and about 55 neighbors said the enhancement could include the area to be called the South Village/Historical Barrio.
Although the plan is slated for final approval from the council, the California Coastal Commission must approve 40 percent of the master plan as that area sits in the coastal zone. In addition, the new plan expands the area’s footprint to 350 acres including the Barrio, which was not covered in the old Village Master Plan.
The plan will come back to the council for final approval in the next week or two. If approved, 60 percent of the plan will be enacted 30 days after that meeting.
“Is this plan perfect? No. Is this plan going to make everybody happy? No,” said resident John Bailey. “Is it something I can live with? Yes I can. I think Scott (Donnell) and Planning Commission tried to do their best to find a balance between all the stakeholders. You’re not going to make everybody happy.”
As usual the Council approves exactly what the citizens are against. 45 foot residential with minimal commercial. Parking in lieu so the developer does not have to provide required and necessary parking for a payment of specified monies. Ambiguous language to be interpreted by city planning staff to better serve developers needs. Now Carlsbad is well on the way to being another unrecognizable downtown in another ordinary city. Far from the goals outlined in the same Master plan. Failure to listen has become a hallmark of the Hall administration. Why even bother with public comment if it is to be totally ignored?
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