Sammis Wins Extension on Batiquitos Campus
The Carlsbad City Council swallowed its disappointment Tuesday and decided to give developer Don Sammis another chance, voting to give him another five years to bring a promised graduate school to the site of his development on the northern shore of Batiquitos Lagoon.
In 1985, the council gave Sammis three years to show proof that he would indeed be able to lure an elite university to the 168-acre development, formally named the Batiquitos Lagoon Educational Park. But the deadline passed last fall, with 75 pink, Mediterranean-style luxury homes built on the bluff but no sign of a school.
Despite Sammis’ apparent failure to bring a university to the site, the city’s planning staff recommended that the council grant him the extension. According to the staff, such approval would not hurt the city financially and would give Sammis a chance to prove his sincerity.
Tuesday night, the council heard the comments of eight irate neighbors who spoke against the project, and then the board voted unanimously for the extension.
It also took the opportunity to tack on new conditions to Sammis’ master plan. One of those is that, if no educational institution materializes, the area set aside for university buildings can be used only for houses or open space.
The council also required that the next phase of 28 houses be constructed at least 80 to 100 feet from the edge of a bluff overlooking the lagoon. The first 75 luxury homes were are built only 45 feet from the edge.
Earlier in the day, the state Coastal Commission, meeting in Marina Del Rey, discussed the bluff buffer zone and ruled that Sammis could not obtain a permit amendment that would allow the owners of the already-built homes to add accessory structures such as decks, pools and barbecues that would encroach on the 45-foot buffer.
Local environmentalist Dolores Welty filed suit last week against the council, chiding it for approving the construction of back-yard additions. But Sammis needed the approval of both the council and the Coastal Commission to proceed.
Welty’s attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, said Tuesday that he will proceed with the suit regardless of the Coastal Commission’s actions.
“Even though theoretically it’s a moot point, we’re going to continue with the suit in case Sammis appeals the Coastal Commission decision,” he said.
If no appeal is filed, the ruling becomes final in 90 days.
Those who fought the extension expressed fears that a university will never be built.
One resident said he feels that the building that have already gone up are “a disgrace.”
“We have been had,” he said. “Let’s make the best of it and learn by our mistakes.”
Sammis, however, assured the council of his continued commitment to build an educational park.
“We are very serious about this project and about education,” he said.
“Some of our greatest problems have come from the timing,” he said, adding that National University and Chapman College, both of which were battling financial difficulties, are recovering and are still keenly interested in coming to Batiquitos.
“We expected to prime the pump, to subsidize the education portion, with profit from the residential development,” Sammis said.
Speaking in support of the extension, Council Member Mark Pettine said: “Carlsbad needs another residential tract about like it needs a toothache. This project offers the opportunity for a new and innovative use of the land.
“I can’t find a reason not to support it,” he said.
“I’ve been disappointed . . . but I didn’t realize until tonight how much money has really gone into this project, and so far it hasn’t cost us anything,” Councilwoman Anne Kulchin said. “I hope he can do it. I really would like to see a higher learning center here in Carlsbad.”