Big Box Store in Scripps Ranch?

What’s Happening?

Sudberry Properties has applied to the city of San Diego to develop the Carroll Canyon Commercial Center at 9850 Carroll Canyon Road at the northeast corner with Interstate 15. The developer is requesting amendments to the city of San Diego general plan and the Scripps Miramar Ranch community plan. Sudberry then will request a planned development permit, a site development permit, and a neighborhood development permit to:

  • Demolish two existing 76,000-square-foot office buildings and associated facilities; and,
  • Build a regional retail center with about 144,000 square feet of commercial retail space, including a big box store, financial institutions, sit-down and fast-food restaurants, and a parking structure.

The Scripps Miramar Ranch Planning Group (SRPG) has held many public meetings to discuss the project. The meeting on Oct. 3 was well attended. More than 100 people discussed the project with Colton Sudberry and the SRPG.

What’s the History?

The property was originally the PSA flight training facility but has been vacant for years. The Horizon Church purchased the site in about 2006, but no longer needs the property. As first reported in the SRCA Newsletter more than two years ago—[www.scrippsranch.org/newsletter/archives/2011/52-june-2011/756-planning0611.html]—Sudberry Properties has proposed a shopping center with a “big box” store and several smaller stores and restaurants. The plan includes parking partially hidden under the main building.

What are the Developer’s Objectives?

  • Create a coherent building site and design in a manner that complements the adjacent business parks and enhances the community character in Scripps Miramar Ranch.
  • Create a commercial retail center that will enliven a primary gateway into the Scripps Ranch community.
  • Allow for retail uses now unavailable in the surrounding market area.
  • Provide retail amenities for the adjacent employment parks and nearby residential uses and capture drive-by trips, thereby reducing the amount of routine daily trips.
  • Efficient use of project site.
  • Viable mix of commercial uses.
  • Utilize architecture and design elements to ensure high quality design and aesthetics.
  • Create a site design that is compatible in scale and character with the nearby business parks.
  • Provide quasi-public space for community use in the form of courtyards and plazas.
  • Develop a project that would implement needed roadway improvements to circulation in the area.

What Will it Look Like?

See the rendering below provided by the developer. This is the view from Carroll Canyon Road. There are more drawings and the community plan map on the SRCA website at [www.scrippsranch.org].

Is There Any Alternative?

Yes there is, and it would be easy. The property is already approved, under the current city and community plans and zoning, to have an industrial/office building of as much as 800,000 square feet with only some environmental review, but without much further approval by the planning group or even the City Council. This is already approved because that land use was specified when the business park was first developed and when the community plan was first written in 1979.

If the commercial center is not approved, there likely will be a large office complex in the future, depending on market conditions. Now that the national and local economies are on the rebound, it is likely the business park space will be desirable, partly for the same reasons that it is attractive as a commercial site. It is close to the center of San Diego, close to the freeway, and it is in a pleasant part of town with family-oriented residents.

What Businesses?

Sudberry Properties has non-disclosure agreements with prospective tenants, but there has been no announcement or confirmation of what tenants may occupy the space. It is widely rumored that Wal-Mart may be a prospective tenant. Mr. Sudberry described the concept for a 120,000-square-foot retail space, which is smaller than many big box stores.

The Scripps Ranch Business Park Association supports the project. Public comment at the SRPG meetings has been mixed, with some residents opposed to a big box store and others in favor.

What’s the Process?

The California Environmental Quality Act requires that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be prepared to inform decision makers and the public of significant environmental effects that might result if the project is approved and built. A draft report was released on Sept. 6, 2013, and public comment was due by Oct. 21.

The comments at this point are supposed to address only the completeness and accuracy of the statements in the EIR, and do not include any opinions about the overall desirability or worth of the project. The SRPG and others submitted comments. These are described below.

What Does the Draft EIR Say?

The city concludes in the Draft EIR (DEIR) that the project would have significant impacts on: transportation/traffic circulation; biological resources; noise; and, paleontological resources.

The city determined that the project would NOT have significant near or long-term impacts on: land use; visual quality and neighborhood character; air quality; global climate change; energy; geologic conditions; hydrology and water quality; health and safety; public services and facilities; and, public utilities.

What is the SRPG Response?

A SRPG committee submitted a response to the city that cited inaccuracies and lack of completeness in the DEIR. The committee responded that the project will have substantial impacts on land use, neighborhood character, safety, and public services in addition to those the city already identified. Also, the SRPG committee said that the traffic analysis severely underestimated impacts on traffic.

The committee also responded that the project would have significant cumulative effects on the area and that some effects are irreversible. It requested that the traffic analysis be redone and the EIR be extensively revised to correct the inaccuracies, omissions, and conclusions.

What are the Differences in the DEIR and SRPG Response?

Here are some of the major differences between the two reports:

  • DEIR: The project is consistent with the city’s goal of creating higher quality jobs with self-sufficient wages. SRPG Response: The project would create fewer high-quality jobs by encroaching on a high-technology business park, and instead create low-skill, low-wage jobs.
  • DEIR: The project is consistent with the city’s goal of increasing local businesses. Response: The project attracts national or regional chains not local businesses.
  • DEIR: The project is consistent with the Scripps Miramar Ranch community plan regarding architectural compatibility and neighborhood character. Response: The project would create a major shopping area with excessive signage, massive buildings with a large parking lot, and extensive vehicular traffic that is completely out of character with the area.
  • DEIR: The project is consistent with the community plan goal of relieving current traffic congestion and preventing chronic congestion in the future, particularly for access to and from I-15. Response: The project would create much more congestion, particularly near I-15.
  • DEIR: The project is consistent with the neighborhood character. Response: The project would change our quiet residential and business community with little commercial encroachment into a regional shopping center and add to our significant traffic problems.
  • DEIR: The project would not impair safety. Response: The project would interfere with the Scripps Ranch Fire Safe Council’s and city’s evacuation plans.
  • DEIR: The project would have no significant impact on police services. Response: Crime often increases around shopping centers, and this project would require new police services. Because the proposed commercial center is next to a high school and near a middle school, we might see crime increases affect our children.
  • DEIR: The traffic study shows some traffic effects would be minimal or could be mitigated. Response: The traffic study underestimated traffic and did not analyze all the intersections and road segments impacted.

What’s Next?

The city will incorporate all public comments on the accuracy or sufficiency of the DEIR into a final EIR. The SRPG, after at least two more public hearings, will then vote to recommend approval or denial of the proposed changes to the general and community plans, the rezoning, and the development permits. The next SRPG meeting is on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 pm at the Scripps Ranch Library. All meetings are open to the public, and everyone is welcome.

The SRPG’s decision will be an advisory vote to the city—it does not automatically lead to approval or denial of the project. The proposal then goes to the city of San Diego Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing, then form its own recommendation on approval or denial. The project next goes to a City Council committee for a recommendation, and then there will be a final public hearing and vote by the City Council. There will be opportunities for public comment on the project at both the Planning Commission and City Council hearings.

The DEIR and the SRPG response in their entirety are both on the SRCA website at [www.scrippsranch.org]. Residents should review them carefully and form their own opinions about the project’s impact on our community.

The City Council has final authority, and Councilmember Mark Kersey represents our district. Before the project comes to the City Council, he needs to understand voter opinion so he can vote according to your wishes. Email him at [[email protected]], and please copy [[email protected]] so we stay aware of your sentiments. Please let your voice be heard.

The SRCA is conducting a short survey of your thoughts about a “big box” retail center at that location. To participate, please go to [www.scrippsranch.org].

Wally Wulfeck, SRPG Chair