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La Costans Team Up to Put Damper on Growth

Times Staff Writer

Weary of traffic jams and worried that development threatens to dilute the quality of life that drew them here, residents of La Costa are banding together to demand that the City Council put the brakes on growth.

About 75 residents gathered Saturday and launched a political action committee of sorts, designed to lobby city officials on issues concerning La Costa, the posh resort community in Carlsbad’s southeastern quadrant.

The group’s goals are many, but most activists agree that their focus is to persuade Carlsbad leaders to address the area’s inadequate road system, shortage of parks and other public-facilities problems before approving new residential developments.

In addition, La Costans believe that their number--about 15,000 out of Carlsbad’s total population of 46,000--deserves greater representation on the five-member City Council; Ann Kulchin is currently the lone representative from southern Carlsbad.

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“In the past two years, there’s been an absolute explosion of growth throughout La Costa, and despite opposition from the citizens, the council is approving more and more projects every day,” said O.B. Adams, a resident described as the movement’s spark plug. “Well, we’re tired of seeing the developers go wild building condos in our neighborhoods. Our message (to the council) is, ‘We’ve awakened.’ ”

Some supporters insist that a moratorium on new development is necessary, while others urge that the council merely slow the pace of growth while making immediate plans to remedy deficiencies in their corner of the city.

A few particularly angry folks, who say the council’s “pro-development” philosophy threatens to turn Carlsbad into another Orange County, have even suggested La Costa secede from the city. With the popular Rancho La Costa resort as its anchor, these activists say, the community might well have sufficient tax base to incorporate alone.

On Saturday, residents appointed a temporary board of directors and collected $94 for the new organization’s coffers. In December, group leaders will meet to formalize a plan.

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Concern over the pace of growth in La Costa has been building over the last few years, ever since a moratorium on development imposed because of sewer limitations was lifted, the activists said. Suddenly, acres of rooftops began appearing--1,500 residential units are under construction now in La Costa, and more than 2,000 others have been approved--and longtime homeowners began to wonder what was going on in their backyard.

“It seems that anywhere you go someone is moving earth around or walking past you with a set of blueprints under his arm,” said Mike Glass, a resident named to the group’s executive board. “What’s particularly alarming is that we have problems already, but La Costa is only about 25% or 30% built out.”

Although concern over the pace of growth was common, it took several recent clashes between the community and developers to crystallize the discontent and prompt formation of the group, Adams said.

“It all started with a neighborhood squabble involving 20 people and a builder who wanted to put 300 condos in a residential area,” he said. Then came community outrage over a developer’s plans to temporarily close busy Rancho Santa Fe Road, a move that would have rerouted traffic through a residential neighborhood.

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“On both of those, the people from all corners of La Costa came together and fought and started talking about the problems in our area,” said attorney David Harshman, another member of the group’s executive board.

And on both of those, they got results. A new detour route was approved for the road closure, and the developer planning the condominiums has agreed to a host of concessions in face of the public’s opposition.

Topping the list of La Costa’s problems, residents say, is traffic congestion, particularly on La Costa Avenue--the area’s only major east-west link with Interstate 5--and Rancho Santa Fe Road. The activists say it is irresponsible of the council to approve new developments when those and other roadways are already overburdened.

In addition, many La Costans complain of a shortage of parks and inadequate police protection. Finally, most group members believe the city should decrease housing densities in their area to preserve the single-family-home ambiance cherished by its residents.

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“When most of us bought homes here seven or eight years ago, we were told that continuing development would be along the same lines,” Glass said. “Instead, we’re getting condos on small lots . . . and that reduces the property values of our homes and changes the character of the area.”

Leaders of the La Costa group admit they have no magic formula for achieving their goals, but they say they’re confident nevertheless.

“This is an opportune time to do something like this, because we’ve got council elections coming up next year,” Adams said. “We think we can exert some influence. Look at Proposition A (the growth initiative) in San Diego. When people get tired of something, they can pull together and make a difference.”


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