Battle over Carlsbad strawberry fields moves to ballot box

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CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The contentious battle over the future of the Carlsbad strawberry fields will now be decided by the voters.

In a $650,000 special election set for Feb. 23, voters will approve or reject an upscale mall proposed by Los Angeles developer Caruso Affiliated when they vote on Measure A.

Wednesday, the principal investor in the project, Rick Caruso, spoke to supporters of the plan.

“It’s going to bring millions of tax dollars to the Carlsbad city," Caruso said. "It will support teachers firefighters and police what’s not to like?”

Caruso said the project provides open space, and it keeps the strawberry fields healthy and sustainable.

But the group opposing the development, Citizens for North County, have mounted a formidable attack, complaining traffic will snag the streets.

“Tourists will be coming to this community and the downtown shops will lose their business to this other mall,” said De’ Ann Weimer, a spokesperson for Citizens for North County.  “We have the advantage because we are neighbors who will be talking to neighbors."

Caruso Affiliated will be spending quite a bit on this election, but Westfield is also donating $75,000 to scuttle it’s potential mall rival.


  • greg

    The fish, plants, birds and other wildlife does not have a voice. We, the ocean loving citizens of Carlsbad, are that voice. The daily pollution of more visitors than Disneyland will be bad news for any living thing in the area. The traffic is already grid lock 7 days a week. Keep Carlsbad quaint. No megamall! Vote no on A. Blessings.

  • Linda Hendrickson Breen

    The headline is misleading. This is to build a huge mall on a lagoon. The strawberry fields are already protected;perhaps Caruso will subsidize them, but this is not explicitly guaranteed by the measure. In addition to traffic, there are serious concerns about the environmental impact of the project. But perhaps most importantly, a dangerous precedent is being set, where a billionaire developer is mis-using the initiative process to bypass current zoning, and the environmental and traffic reviews that are required for any project of this size.

  • Richard Muldoon

    What most people fail to realize is that SOMETHING will eventually be built on this parcel. This vote isn’t a simple case of Mall OR Nature. Personally, I like the 85/15 ratio, all while preserving the Strawberry Fields.

    I find it amusing when some say that building this mall will take business from the village businesses. Where were they when the Carlsbad Premium Outlets was built? I think their focus should be more on the Subway invasion of local shops than on this.

    This is just a Westfield-backed movement ($75,000 donation) to thwart any business that negatively affects its UTC and North County properties. Westfield doesn’t care about Carlsbad and it never has. It neglected and ignored the Plaza Camino Real mall for years and years in favor of the other two previously-mentioned properties and now it’s suddenly concerned about the welfare of Carlsbad retail? I don’t think so. The mall is commonly known as the Carlsbad Ghetto Mall thanks to Westfield’s stewardship, or lack thereof.

    In the end it’s just another example of civic futility – a quality that the city of Carlsbad seems to master.

    • KC

      Actually, what most people don’t realize is that there is nothing to indicate this land has to be developed. And if it is, it should be something for the entire community, which this project is not. Currently, it is not zoned for a mega mall. Regarding Westfield, pretty pathetic when you consider the receipt is a group that had all of $17 in the bank when I first talk to them. Despite Caruso’s finger pointing, he is guilty of the same crime. In 2009 he sued Westfield and the city of Arcadia demanding a new environmental impact report for its conversion of 13,500 feet in retail space into a dining area at The Promenade at Westfield Santa Anita. I found that ironic for one who went out of his way to go around CEQA. Westfield, on the other hand, did not do this. If I were them I would complain as well. Sadly, the
      Westfield Carlsbad mall was starting to improve. The new theater is great and is affordable, unlike our other theater. I would have loved to see more of the same. The Caruso mall would be no threat to Westfield. If anything, it’s the other way around. They are revamping UTC, which has much better access and parking. It includes linking to the trolley line, definitely a step in the right direction. Hoping that comes a little farther north – no driving and parking. Why would I head North and deal with a bottleneck on I5?

      • Joe

        Numerous fallacies in your argument. Ultimately you are defending Westfield which is very telling in that they are paying big $ to get what they’re after, same as Caruso.

        • KC

          What fallacies? The 2009 lawsuit? The lagoon property not being zoned for a mega mall? Revamping UTC? Not wanting to deal with the bottleneck on I5? The Westfield mall wasn’t improving? Westfield’s 75k donation? I would hardly call that paying big $ compared to the 5.2 million spent by Caruso. Personally, I could care less if Caruso and Westfield get into another brawl. But, I get VERY irritated when the finger is pointed at a grass roots organization of smart volunteers who are dedicating their time to protect the city they love. That is just plain wrong.

  • KC

    Your reporting on this is lacking. First, none of the drawings show the power lines that will remain on the property. The interview with Caruso is the usual spin – claiming to protect the strawberry fields, which are already protected. How does he plan to keep them “healthy and sustainable?” None of that is in the plans. And what happens if the owner of the Strawberry Company decides he no longer wants to farm this land. That question remains to be answered.

    Caruso asks “What’s not to like?” How about lying to the voters, trying to squash our right to an informed vote on the project and skirting around the environmental review that all other developers had to follow. How about finger pointing at any opposition, including Westfield, whose donation is small compared to the 5.2 million dollar campaign to push this project through. How about destroying one of our lagoons, which make Carlsbad unique The pro mall group doesn’t understand this project is not for them – it’s a tourist attraction. Traffic will be terrible – clogged I5 was not taken into consideration. And our downtown merchants will suffer as well.

    Vote No on A!! Keep LA in LA.

  • Tim VanKlaveren

    Richard, something may be built there, but it won’t create its own new zoning or exceed the planned sqft by 26%. Both this Lagoon Mall and a Walmart are not allowed under current zoning.

    Build something smaller. Something for North County, not a tourist attraction. Build something that is not going to worsen our already horrible traffic.

    Caruso DOES NOT yet own this land. Let it be sold to anyone other than caruso and his $5.3 million campaign full of lies.

  • Jaimie Muehlhausen

    This has almost nothing to do with strawberry fields! You have bought into the Caruso propaganda machine. It’s about a developer being allowed to bypass laws and regulations to build a mega-mall on a natural wildlife lagoon. The majority of citizens of Carlsbad were railroaded by a City Council that appeared bought and paid for. This is an opportunity to right that wrong and abide by the will of the people.

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