A luxury housing project proposed for the shores of the Los Penasquitos Lagoon was rejected Monday by the City Council after opponents pleaded for more time to find funds to buy the property and to preserve it as open space.
The lagoon, polluted last March with the county's largest sewage spill, lies along the coast at the northern San Diego city limits.
The project, Beau Soleil, called for construction of 28 luxury homes--with estimated price tags of $450,000 to $500,000--on fill pads that would raise the units to road level and out of the lagoon marshlands.
"This is not just a little local issue," said Gerald Tracy, president of the Del Mar Terrace Conservancy and an opponent of the housing proposal. "People come from all over the county to use this beach (Torrey Pines State Beach) and to enjoy this view. This property is an integral part of the lagoon and should be preserved as open space."
Beau Soleil had been approved by the city Planning Commission despite protests of local residents and the Sierra Club, who argued that the residential development would violate the long-standing boundary between the lagoon wetlands and development across Carmel Valley Road.
Breaking this roadway boundary "will set a precedent which could mean trouble in the San Dieguito Lagoon area," where environmental groups and the City of Del Mar are fighting plans for hotel and commercial development in the flood plain of the San Dieguito River, Jane Schnall, an opponent to the project, predicted.
The 8-1 Council vote on the appeal by the Del Mar Terrace Conservancy overturned the Planning Commission decision approving the rezoning of the land. Councilman Bill Cleator was the only dissenter.
Paul Peterson, an attorney representing the Georgedale Inc. development firm of Carlsbad, said that the project has been on the drawing boards for more than a decade, enough time to allow the residents to raise an estimated $1.6 million to buy the land.
He pointed out that the site was not within the lagoon boundaries or the flood plain. Portions bordering lagoon wetlands were being dedicated as an open-space buffer between the homes and the lagoon, he said.
Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer spearheaded support for overturning the Planning Commission, noting that the land had an agricultural zoning designation when it was bought, not residential.
" . . . This is a case of 'buyer beware,' in which you have no right to rezoning . . . and we would be hard-pressed to make findings (supporting rezoning) that would stand up in court," she said.