Once again in San Diego County a major developer is helping to finance a referendum campaign against another developer’s project, in this case a retail and dining center planned in Carlsbad’s strawberry fields.
Westfield Corp. announced Wednesday that it is donating $75,000 to Citizens for North County’s No on Measure A campaign, which seeks to prevent a development supported unanimously by Carlsbad’s mayor and city council.
Los Angeles mall developer Caruso Affiliated plans to build an upscale shopping and dining center while preserving 85 percent of about 203 acres of open space near Interstate 5 and Cannon Road. Much of the property has been used for decades to grow strawberries, though it is zoned for commercial and retail development.
Earlier this year two developers tussled over the One Paseo project in Carmel Valley, with Donahue Schriber helping finance a referendum challenge to the Kilroy Realty project. Donahue Schriber owns a shopping center across El Camino Real from the planned development. The two ultimately agreed to a compromise at a City Council meeting.
Westfield recently sold its mall in Carlsbad, but said Thursday it was supporting a no vote in the referendum because it wanted to ensure that California’s environmental review process is fair to all parties. “In reviewing the environmental materials prepared for the initiative process, Westfield confirmed that the environmental analysis of the proposed 85/15 Project was flawed in numerous respects,” the shopping center developer said.
Earlier this year, before its mall at Route 78 and El Camino Real was sold, Westfield denied that it was supporting the referendum drive.
Caruso Affiliated on Thursday criticized the donation as an effort by Westfield to “protect its own selfish economic interests” and dictate future development in Carlsbad.
“Westfield’s practice throughout the country is stifle competition to the detriment of consumers, and it’s no different here,” said Matt Middlebrook, executive vice president for development at Caruso.
The city contends the Caruso development will enhance Carlsbad and sustain strawberry farming for years to come. Carlsbad Strawberry Co. President Jimmy Ukegawa, whose fields are now rented from San Diego Gas & Electric, would continue to operate them under the Caruso plan.
A vote on what is called the Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan is scheduled during a special election on Feb. 23.
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