New Village, Barrio Master Plan may be ready by September

Carlsbad’s controversial Village and Barrio Master Plan is moving forward, with the Carlsbad City Council voting to sign a $112,727 “professional services agreement” with the RRM Design Group of San Juan Capistrano to help with a third draft, now expected to be released by fall.

This time, however, the consultant is taking a back seat, with senior planner Scott Donnell and his team taking the lead and RRM merely assisting with design guidelines, development standards, and layout of the plan.

“It will be a staff-led effort,” O’Donnell said at a Feb. 28 City Council meeting. “But there are some aspects of the plan that we need consultant assistance on, some technical things that staff simply does not have the capacity to do or the resources to do.”

O’Donnell told the City Council that RRM has lots of experience in coastal planning and is also currently working with the city of Huntington Beach on a new master plan for its downtown.

Back in May 2016, the Carlsbad City Council, in the face of mounting opposition, scrapped an earlier version of the plan, prepared by a group of consultants, led by Dover Kohl & Partners of Coral Gables, Florida at a cost to the city of $381,000.

That plan was first released to the public in November 2015, with a revised plan presented in April 2016. Both were greeted with skepticism by locals, who railed against the mandate “to be a town,” with “urban-style streets, parks and building types … [with] denser housing and lodging.”

The most controversial elements in the plan, based on resident comments at Planning Commission and City Council meetings as well as social media posts, included a call to raise the height limit in the village from 45 feet to 55 feet. Locals also opposed renderings that showed clusters of four-story mixed-use buildings lining the streets of Carlsbad’s historic core, including a towering parking garage topped by a pool situated in what is now the east parking lot of the Carlsbad Village Faire commercial center.

At the time, the city noted on its website that it has “decided to change the schedule for two reasons: to wait for the results of the Village, Barrio and beach area parking study … and to allow our staff time to revise the plan based on community input and the parking study results. This plan is important to our community, and it’s important to get it right, even if that means taking a little more time to ensure we have fully considered all of the community’s input.”

After the plan was shelved, the city held two more meetings to gather public input, one at the Senior Center in July 2016 and the other in October 2016 in front of the Planning Commission. It was subsequently decided that while city staff would spearhead the preparation of a third draft, outside help was needed.

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