The City of Carlsbad recently took ownership of a 61-acre piece of property, bisected at the corner of Carlsbad Village Drive and Victoria Lane, as part of a lawsuit settlement involving the Quarry Creek housing project. Now that the city owns the property, the trail through the southern portion can officially be opened for public access. On April 23, 2019, the City Council directed city staff to “…initiate public outreach to engage residents in the development of a plan to integrate an off-leash dog run as part of the Village H property.”
A community meeting was held on June 29 to gather input on the future use of Village H South. City staff will present the options we develop with the community for the City Council’s consideration in fall 2019. An online survey was available until July 28 for those who couldn’t make the meeting or just preferred to provide input that way.
Want to see what a community meeting is like? See in just 35 seconds here.
A half-mile trail runs through the southern section of this property that has long been planned to become part of the citywide trails system. Historically, when the property was privately owned, some community members used the trail as a place to walk with their dogs off leash. A previous owner put up a fence, locked gate and no trespassing signs, but the public continued to use the property. Under city and county laws, dogs on city trails must be on a maximum 6 foot leash, and dogs are not allowed in city parks, except dog parks. City staff presented a comprehensive overview of the issues involved at the April 23, 2019, City Council meeting. You can read the report or watch the presentation video.
When will the property reopen? When city arborists and maintenance staff inspected the property to assess its condition, they identified the following work needed to make the site safe for public access and to protect the habitat preserves:
Trash and debris removal
Clearing drainage ditches
Plant and wildlife surveying
Trail surface maintenance (addressing drainage and erosion issues)
Trail signs, trail demarcation (usually wooden post and rail fencing), dog waste bag stations and recycling/trash containers
This work is complete and the trail is now open to the public.
Will dogs be allowed to be off leash? Current county and city laws don’t allow dogs to be off leash on city trails, so initially, dogs will need to be leashed. Currently, dogs are not allowed (leashed or unleashed) in the open space and preserve areas adjacent to the trail.
What options will be considered for the long-term plan? There are about 13 acres that can be used by the public. The rest needs to be protected because it’s home to sensitive habitat. The 13 acres fall under the city’s open space designation, which includes park-like uses and trails.
What needs to be considered when planning the future use of this property? Community members have conveyed the important role this property plays in their quality of life. Gathering at the site increases their sense of community and social connection, provides an opportunity for children to be in nature, and allows four-legged family members to exercise and socialize too. The city’s goal is to maximize these benefits, while protecting sensitive habitat and allowing wildlife to move through the property:
The Village H South property is home to protected habitat managed by professional biologists to enable sensitive and endangered species to thrive. Since it's important that this land not be disturbed, certain "buffer areas" need to be considered when planning how the surrounding land is used. See a map of where the habitat is located on the site.
Another consideration is the creation and preservation of wildlife corridors. The city’s preserve system is intended to provide as many contiguous pieces of property as possible so wildlife can safely roam, just like they did hundreds of years ago, before the land was developed. Fences, roads and other structures interfere with these wildlife corridors.
Noise and Neighborhood Aesthetics
Neighbors who live along the borders of the southern section of the property (and within earshot) need to be consulted since they’ll be most directly affected by any change in use.
Legal Settlement The city acquired the Village H property as part of a settlement agreement over a lawsuit related to the Quarry Creek development. One of the conditions of the agreement is that the city “promptly allow public access to the historic public use trail through Village H.” Changing the location of the public trail or allowing dogs off leash within the current location of the public trail could be considered a violation of the agreement.
State and Federal Wildlife Agency Review Since the property
contains protected habitat areas, any change in use requires approval of state
and federal wildlife agencies.
Changing the land use on this property requires an amendment to the city’s General Plan, Calavera Hills Master Plan and the city Zoning Code. In addition, the new land use would require the approval of a Conditional Use Permit, Habitat Management Plan Permit and possibly a Hillside Development Permit.
A new use on this property would be required to undergo environmental review to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
Municipal Code Update
Changing the rules for
what is allowed on a city trail (e.g., dogs off leash) requires an amendment to
the Carlsbad Municipal Code.
Cost Whatever is ultimately created at the southern section of this property will have a cost – both initially and on an ongoing basis. The city will need to estimate these costs and identify the source of funding.
How long will it take for the long-term plan to go into effect? If the long-term plan involves activities/amenities other than keeping this section of the property under currently allowable uses (only leashed dogs on the trail, and no dogs on the open space and preserve areas outside of the trail), various permits and approvals will be needed. Depending on the plan, it could take two to three years.
Why can’t the city change the use sooner? Whenever the city (or a private property owner) is considering a new land use, the proposed change needs to be evaluated for potential environmental impacts and to make sure the new use is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Ultimately, the city’s Planning Commission will decide whether the new use meets city standards, and staff will then make a recommendation to the City Council. This process is not quick, but it’s important because changes in land use affect not just the land in question but surrounding property and the overall balance of land uses throughout the city.
Will the long-term plan include dogs being allowed off leash?
Many community members have expressed a strong desire to allow dogs off-leash, and the City Council has directed staff to work with the community to develop options for off leash use. Ultimately, the City Council will decide which option best meets the needs of the community, neighbors and the environment.
Motion by Council Member Schumacher, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Bhat-Patel, directing staff to initiate public outreach to engage residents in the development of a plan to integrate an off-leash dog run as part of the Village H property. Staff was directed to commence the public outreach (as soon as the process of recording the deed is complete), over the subsequent 90 days and to include public noticing within 600 feet of the Village H property. Council Member Schumacher requests that staff engage and incorporate resident input about how best to integrate an off-leash dog run, not simply offer staff prepared options for residents to select from. Return to City Council in the fall with public/staff recommendations for consideration. Motion carried unanimously, 5/0.
“Accepting dedication of Calavera Hills Village H property (APN 167-101- . 19) from Presidio Cornerstone QC, LLC; authorizing execution of grant deed dedicating a portion of Calavera Hills Village H property to Calavera Hills Recreational Vehicle Park; and appropriating related one-time funds”