Jimmy Ukegawa (left) of Carlsbad Strawberry Company, Maureen Simons of Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Rick Caruso and Carlton Lund, former chairman of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. Courtesy of Caruso Affiliated
Jimmy Ukegawa (left) of Carlsbad Strawberry Company, Maureen Simons of Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Rick Caruso and Carlton Lund, former chairman of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. Courtesy of Caruso Affiliated

Updated at 5:03 p.m. Feb. 29, 2016:

The developer who wanted to build a retail and dining center on the shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad conceded defeat Monday in a close special election on the issue.

Rick Caruso, of Caruso Affiliated, said he called the leaders of the opposition to congratulate them on their campaign.

After today’s vote count, the “no” vote was ahead 52 percent to 48 percent, with 300 ballots remaining — out of around 39,000 cast.

“This was a close election with a historically strong voter turnout on both sides,” said Caruso, whose open air shopping malls include The Grove in Los Angeles, The Americana at Brand in Glendale and The Commons in Calabasas.

“Both sides share a common love for their Carlsbad community, a sentiment we share.” he said. “While we had hoped for a different outcome, we are proud of our effort, our plan, the integrity of our message, and we are thankful for the great friends and supporters we have made over the past four years. We are very grateful for their support and hard work.”

He had planned to build on 15 percent of 203 acres he controlled near Interstate 5 and Cannon Road. A family-run U-pick strawberry farm on the property would have been allowed to remain in operation.

The project was approved last year by the Carlsbad City Council, but opponents — citing concerns about traffic congestion and building size — collected enough petition signatures to force the public vote.

The election night count found opponents ahead by 186 votes out of around 33,000 ballots cast. The margin only grew in subsequent counting.

–City News Service