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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
April 3, 2000


The Carlsbad City Council has a new mission. Having been thwarted by residents in their war against trees, the council has now turned their future focus towards shopping centers as civic enhancements. At a recent meeting, citing commercial development as vital, Councilwoman Julie Nygaard stated that "shopping centers are just as important as libraries and parks." I wonder if this catchy slogan will be part of her reelection campaign.

In a belated attempt to discourage the proliferation of strip malls in Carlsbad, the city will eliminate policies that allow the development of small, convenience-type shopping centers from the general plan, in favor of larger 8 to 15 acre regional retail centers, that are "aesthetically pleasing." In other words, the trend in Carlsbad is heading towards developments such as the Carlsbad Outlet Mall.

For those of you who are familiar with the double speak of pro-development city councils, this is just the beginning of a full court press to squeeze a major development in Green Valley, and further acerbate the growing traffic nightmare along El Camino Real. The reason for such a change in the general plan is based in the reality that residents are fed up with stripmall developments encroaching upon established neighborhoods, while existing stripmalls set half empty.

Currently at the corner of La Costa Ave and El Camino Real a new shopping center is being built across the street from an existing one. Redundant to the point of absurdity, this new supermarket will be located between two Vons, both of which are located along El Camino Real in Carlsbad. The previous center, failed because a Vons was built across the street. Providing proof, once again, that capitalism eats it's own. Had Mayor Bud Lewis been paying attention to all the projects he has approved, over the past two decades, he would realized overdevelopment is nothing more than the politics of blight.

It's a shame the Carlsbad City Council does not listen to the residents they represent. The general consensus in town is that there is no need for new retail developments at this time. Consensus also recognizes a significant need for open space preservation. However as local coverage of the council's priorities shows, considerable time is spent discussing the shifting semantics regarding retail development, and very little time protecting the dwindling amount of native habitat within the city's borders.

It is obvious the Carlsbad city council believes that infinite growth, and continued sprawl, is the only way to ensure a continued revenue flow into the city. Sadly, and much to the detriment of the entire community, this thinking is shortsighted and completely lacking in creativity. If the city is so intent on attracting new development within their borders, perhaps the wise course of action is to firmly embrace the redevelopment of retail centers struggling to keep tenants, and attract shoppers. As easy as it is for bulldozers to lay waste to undeveloped open space, those same bulldozers can level outdated commercial centers to make way for mixed used commercial projects more in keeping with SANDAG's goals pertaining to the findings of the Region 2020 study.

Refusing to learn from past mistakes, the new center being built at the corner of La Costa Ave. and El Camino Real is just a return to the same failed pattern. And where it might qualify as redevelopment, it does nothing to correct past mistakes, and does little to address the real needs of that city.

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