Carlsbad political and business leaders warned shopping center developer Westfield Corp. on Monday not to challenge a competing development on the iconic strawberry fields site.
Mayor Matt Hall accused Westfield of taking steps circulate petitions against the Carlsbad City Council’s unanimous decision last week to proceed with development of the site while preserving 176 acres as open space.
“I urge you to abandon your challenge of the Carlsbad City Council’s unanimous approval of the 85/15 plan and focus your efforts on rehabilitating your Plaza Camino Real property,” wrote Hall in a letter to Westfield, adding that opposition “is not about the community but about market competition.”
Hall and other community leaders released letters to Westfield and spoke at a hastily-called press conference at the site on Cannon Road near Interstate 5.
Under the plan, Caruso Affiliated would develop 15 percent of the site and turn the remaining 85 percent into public open space along Agua Hedionada Lagoon. Caruso, which developed The Grove in Los Angeles, has a contract to purchase the land from San Diego Gas & Electric.
Carlsbad Strawberry Co. President Jimmy Ukegawa, whose fields are now rented from SDG&E, would continue to operate them under the plan. He said Westfield was “trying to overturn our city council’s unanimous decision and tear our city apart.”
Westfield issued a statement denying support — “financial or otherwise” — for a referendum drive but said the strawberry fields project deserved a more complete environmental review.
“We are disappointed by the efforts of Caruso Affiliated and its supporters to fabricate stories about Westfield, and creating a ‘straw man’ so as to divert attention away from the legitimate concerns of the citizens of Carlsbad and North County,” the company said.
Councilman Mark Packard said rumors were being spread that all of the space can be made into public land, when it is in fact private property zoned for commercial development.
Hall said he believed the new development, the outlet mall nearby and Westfield’s mall some three miles away could all operate profitably.
The group Citizens for North County has established a Facebook page opposing the development, but denies receiving funding from Westfield.
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