continued "When Proposition C was defeated at the polls in June 1994, Pardee went back and sat down with the leadership of the Sierra Club and Endangered Habitats League of San Diego and agreed not to develop 150 acres of sensitive habitat on Carmel Mountain if the Sierra Club and Endangered Habitats would support M," Crueger said. "This is a Faustian bargain they made. The amount of environmental destruction that would occur with 5470 units is huge: leveling, silt, runoff, and destruction of sensitive animal and plant habitats. Maybe Carmel Mountain is sensitive, but should commuters be put through traffic hell just to save 150 acres?"
Crueger said the developers learned their lesson from the 1994 campaign, in which the ballot language for Proposition C did list the densities -- 14,870 to 17,500 units, almost twice as many as would be allowed if both K and M pass this year. He says that, even if the east-west Highway 56 is built, the new developments allowed under K and M will create traffic tie-ups over more than two miles and waits to get on Interstates 5 and 15 of over an hour and 15 minutes. He's got an interesting source for these estimates: a study prepared for Pardee Construction by a company called Urban Systems Associates, which was supposed to be an internal document but was released to his group during discovery proceedings in their lawsuit to stop the project.
"These developments would put a burden on our transportation system, which would create chaos," Crueger said. "Since people get antsy after waiting more than 15 minutes to get on a freeway and start looking for surface streets to take instead, this will spill over, and a number of local streets will become congested as well, particularly El Camino Real to Via de la Valle. Our position is that until the city, county, state, and federal governments can sit around a table about developing, and properly funding, a regional transportation system that works, these gargantuan projects are unwarranted."
According to Chase, Crueger's fears about traffic congestion are unwarranted because, as part of another phase of their negotiations with Pardee and Potomac, these developments will be designed in such a way that people won't need to use their cars. "We couldn't endorse it unless we also addressed open space, community design, pollution, whether people can live there without a car, and are the developments transit-friendly," Chase said. As for Crueger's other arguments, Chase believes the land they're allowing to be developed is "degraded habitat," much of it former agricultural land, which would require immense and expensive work to bring it back to its wild state -- whereas the Carmel Mountain area is still in its pristine natural state.
Chase also explained that the Sierra Club actually considers high-density development to be a good thing. "You should be putting housing near transportation and freeways and near to jobs and shopping," she said. "These developments are mixed-use. People could actually live in these communities without having to commute. One of the sources of opposition to this is people who don't want affordable housing near them."
Sierra Club staff person Paul Blackburn added that while the opponents of K and M are arguing as if every single authorized unit will be built immediately, the actual plans of Pardee and Potomac will probably take 15 to 20 years to be fully built. Blackburn also snapped that most of the opposition to K and M was coming from owners of existing "estate homes" in the area. "I call them 'estate mansions,' " Blackburn said.
Little about this issue upsets Crueger more than the accusation that he and other area residents opposed to M and K are a bunch of elitists who don't want the less affluent in their backyards. "It's politically astute to blame us as being NIMBYs because it's an estate area," Crueger said. "The truth is no one wants to protect the environment out there as much as the people who live there."
Where Blackburn sees affluent people living in "estate mansions," Crueger sees ordinary people organizing a grass-roots effort against a developer with over $800,000 to spend on the campaign. The financial stakes are more even on K, where the Fairbanks Ranch Homeowners' Association has raised a campaign war chest of $1000 from each member (in a 618-lot development) and has already sent out a mailing which, in a pun on the initiative's ballot designation, said, "Proposition K Means TraffiK." But without any similar large developments already existing in the area affected by M, Crueger's group hasn't had the opportunity to raise the kind of money it would take to counter the $800,000 Pardee is willing to spend. "They've already trumped us," Crueger said.
Both Crueger and Landon believe that the Sierra Club's idea that the traffic impacts of K and M will be minimized by people living, working, and shopping within the development and not using their cars is ridiculously naïve. They expect these developments, if built at all, to become classic suburban bedroom communities. "I was born and raised in Southern California," Landon said, "and unless we have a complete transformation in our society and rapid transit is made available to these developments, I don't think people are going to stop using their cars. It's bad planning to put so many people in an area with no access except 56 -- which isn't built yet and will have no north ramps -- or surface streets."
In addition to environmentalists on both sides of Propositions K and M, there are also environmentalists in the middle. The San Diego chapter of the League of Conservation Voters came within one vote of endorsing M but ultimately took no position on M and after that didn't bother taking a vote on K. The San Diego Democratic Club endorsed M but took no position on K. Former San Diego City Council candidate Michael Zucchet, a member of both those organizations, voted at the Democratic Club against taking a position on M but later acknowledged, "My personal position is highly conflicted but in favor of M. I am sort of leaning on K, and I suppose officially my position would be no position on K."