LA developer marshals support for Carlsbad mall plan

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CARLSBAD, Calif. -- A Los Angeles developer who wants to develop a shopping center near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon is joining forces with a local farmer and open space advocates to push the project forward.

For the last three years, billionaire developer Rick Caruso, responsible for the Grove and the Americana shopping centers in Los Angeles, has had his sights set on 200 acres of land south of the lagoon near the strawberry fields in Carlsbad.  The land is on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, a 400-acre coastal wetland in Carlsbad. For years, residents have had limited access to it.

“If you drive up and down Cannon Road you’ll see nothing but no trespassing signs,” said Bryce Ross of Caruso Affiliated. “We’re excited for the first time to bring people out to the open spaces and experience this beautiful space."

Caruso Affiliated is a development group hoping to build a project named the Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan. Ross claims the project would preserve 85 percent of the land — 176 acres — as open space while developing the remaining 15 percent.

“Our goal as a company is to deliver what the community has asked for. They've overwhelmingly told us they want to protect open space and want access to it," said Ross. “Carlsbad community loves its strawberry fields. They want to see that sustainable for generations to come. That’s why Jimmy Ukegawa with the Carlsbad Strawberry Company has endorsed the plan.”

“It would ensure we have customers coming by and that we’ll be able to supply the restaurants and our farm stand with freshest fruits and vegetables," said Ukegawa.

Ukegawa, who owns the strawberry fields, says the plan will make it easier to keep his business going since it includes significantacreage dedicated to strawberry farming and other agricultural uses.

“In the 80s, we were farming 1,800 acres of tomatoes and strawberries. Now we’re farming 30. High cost of labor, high cost of water, cheap imports have made it very difficult for local farmers to survive," said Ukegawa.

The plan will also ensure miles of new hiking trails and picnic areas. Revenue from the proposed shopping center would pay for maintenance of the open space. The company has been reaching out to residents in hopes the proposal will be approved by the Carlsbad City Council.

“They’ll make the decision they feel is best for the community,” said Ross. “That will probably be within the next 60 days or so."

The California Coastal Commission would also have to sign off before construction could begin.

5 comments

  • paula

    Only 15% or nearly 27 acres of the property-instead of the nearly 50 acres preserved by Prop D-is reserved for a new pedestrian-friendly, outdoor retail, shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation promendade. The 85/15 Plan takes 85% of the land around the south shore of the Lagoon that is currently privately owned and mostly inaccessible to Carlsbad residents, and makes it open to the public and accessible for families to enjoy in an environmentally friendly way. It will be a wonderful place for everyone to enjoy.

  • Klaus Kirchhoff

    My wife and I cannot wait for this proposed development to become a reality here in Carlsbad. The developer has a proven track record of building nothing but upscale shopping, dining and entertainment projects like the Grove and the Americana as well as others in the greater Los Angeles area. We also have confidence in the City Council and their staff to not just approve something which would not meet City ordinances, laws and regulations. Instead they would reject it if they felt it to not meet the standards of our community. I cannot wait for the time when I can enjoy this – what I call – OASIS where we can enjoy being there

  • Don Burton

    Why are people so anxious to see this project fast-tracked? The fact that the propaganda campaign in favor of it has to resort to lies in order to hoodwink people ought to tell you something. The paid signature gatherers lied to people, telling them that the petition was to “save the strawberry fields” with NO mention of the mall. They also lied by telling people that signing the petition would ensure this came up for a vote whereas the council could approve it WITHOUT a vote. The other telling detail that seems to be ignored is the cozy relationship between Caruso reps and the so-called Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, and the Hi Noon Rotary not to mention the paid consultant who represents both the Mayor, one city council member AND Caruso. Something fishy going on here. In any case, let the people vote. That’s the American way.

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