Save them from what, exactly?
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Post Title: Duped! The signature campaign for a Strawberry Fields Mall

Post Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My afternoon nap was disturbed last Thursday by the sound of a man’s cheery voice from behind the screen at my open front door.

“Hello, hello!”

Awakening from a sound sleep, I shuffled to the door to find a man standing there, holding a clipboard. He didn’t introduce himself, just explained, “We’re gathering signatures to save the strawberry fields.” I didn’t recognize him, but his easygoing manner led me to believe he was a fellow resident of our 40-unit condo community.

Despite full knowledge of our HOA ban on door-to-door solicitation and my own vow never to sign a petition without knowing the details of what it meant and who was pushing it, I allowed the phrase “save our strawberry fields” to cloud my better judgment. When Karen called from another room to ask who was at the door I told her it was someone who wanted to save the strawberry fields. She gladly added her name to mine for the apparent do-gooder at the door.

The following day, as I awaited my prescription in the pharmacy, I picked up the June 12 edition of The Coast News. The headline, “Nordstrom Signs On to Strawberry Fields Shopping Center,” told me we had happily signed up to clear the way for a two-story shopping mall next to I-5.

Reading further, I discovered the developer, Caruso Affiliated, has launched a “citizen-led” initiative campaign to bypass the usual approval process. The city council will be able to approve the project outright or put it on the ballot. If 15% of registered voters’ signatures are gathered (8900 signatures of 59,000 voters) and the council chooses a ballot measure, a special election will be held.

I soon discovered another news article about the project, this one in the San Diego Reader, More Shopping, Less Strawberry Picking in Carlsbad’s Strawberry Fields? In it, writer Ken Harrison opined, “Some say the initiative tactic used by big developers is a ploy to sway a generally uninformed electorate, or, in some cases, hoodwink them with slick or misleading campaigns.”

I also learned Caruso Affiliated’s citizen-led initiative campaign is headed up by a former planning commissioner, a member of the Lagoon foundation, and a former Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce CEO, hardly a cross-section of community interests.

A few days later, Karen and I came upon another signature-gatherer lurking outside the door of our local grocery store. His appearance was a far cry from the well-dressed, neatly coiffed gentlemen at our front door. I asked him who he worked for. Visibly taken aback, he asked why I wanted to know. I told him we want to know who paid him to gather signatures. He finally told us he had a card. I discovered he worked for Voter Contact Services, Inc., in Oceanside, offering services for petition drives, door-to-door, and GOTV, for issues and candidates. On the reverse side of the card were instructions for turning in signatures for payment.

Here was the classic example of how citizen-led petition drives have been perverted by big money. I remember the days when signature-gatherers had a personal interest in the issue, and not in the $1–$3 to get my autograph.

Although I blame myself for giving away my name so readily, I also blame the lack of a local daily newspaper. If a developer calling himself “Papa” had not purchased the North County Times to kill it, Carlsbad residents would have been able to gain a far better understanding of the issues and would have been less vulnerable to developer spin. Full disclosure: for nine years, as a freelancer, I wrote op-ed community opinion columns for the newspaper.

Is it any wonder the Caruso Affiliated campaign for the strawberry fields shopping mall chose the title “Preserving Carlsbad Open Space,” in bold type, followed by “The Right Way” in smaller, gray type? That means one more shopping center rather than a new venue for the arts and entertainment, a place that would attract visitors for what makes Carlsbad unique, rather than just another parking place to shop, dine, and catch a movie. Like L.A.

Title: The Riehl World | Address: theriehlworld2.blogspot.com

Author: Richard Riehl | From: Carlsbad | Blogging since: 2011

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Comments

joziel July 27, 2015 @ 11:09 p.m.

Janette- The fact that you can claim overwhelming support is astonishing! Paying signature gathers nearly 10X the going rate (petition gatherers were paid $9 per signature) and lying to residents to get a signature is certainly NOT overwhelming support! The fact that only 13 people had the signatures removed tells you nothing. There are thousands more that have tried to get theirs removed after finding out they were duped only to be told it was too late. If this issue is put to a public vote, they way any project of this magnitude should be, I think only then will we know the true support (or lack thereof) of this project. Caruso and his supporters (basically only those with a financial interest in the project) know that they only way to get something like this built is to bypass all normal regulatory processes and pay their way through the system. It's pretty ironic that the residents have been inundated with direct mailers filled with pretty watercolor drawings of children frolicking in open fields and yet there has been very little information about the mall itself, parking, traffic concerns, etc.

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DonB July 28, 2015 @ 7:32 a.m.

In the name of transparency, perhaps Janette Littler ought to disclose that she is a PAID representative of Caruso Affiliates. Just check out her Twitter account. You can also look up her PR company, Callidus Consulting Group and its Twitter feed as well. Interesting to note she also worked on Mayor Hall's election campaign. She engaged in a similar PR effort for One Paseo in Carmel Valley on behalf of Kilroy Realty.

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joziel July 28, 2015 @ 9:39 a.m.

Interesting Don. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. These folks think we are stupid and perhaps we were for signing this petition in the first place. But when lied to, it's hard to make smart choices. The only folks that have been vocal in favor of this project are the ones that will gain monetarily from it. Politics at its worst. The media needs to call these crooks out!!!

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xchangetimes July 30, 2015 @ 3:01 p.m.

To Janette, Paula and all Caruso supports, This 85/15 has 0 chance. People in Carlsbad thought they preserved or saved the strawberry fields by voting for E or D. This was an overwhelming majority. Believe me, I was there, were you? The city has a creative overlay zone on these farmlands to allow for all sorts of things which no one understands unless there nose is in the trenches. Obviously, yours are with the details of the plan you know and as Don points people on here are paid to answer these forums. Janette is a paid campaigner. LOL. Good call Don.

The 85/15 has no chance if it goes to a vote. Every Tuesday at City Council meeting, share your thoughts. Here is a simple one " take this 85/15 to the vote of the people"

Its time City of Carlsbad creates a farm trust or encourages opportunity for private parties to buy these lands and any other farmland/openspace left and pledge on title to keep them farmlands/openspace in perpetuity. Proposition E was set up for this and Farm Trusts in northern California were going to help. Under D or E, all the nice things about trails and public access can be integrated without adding a shopping mall or any other brick and mortar. The culture of Carlsbad simply needs to rise up.

Since Caruso has NO chance, maybe they will sell their option. I have a call in with the acquisitions department. Should they not sell, perhaps SDGE will take this property to the market next time instead of working under secret Enron schemes to screw the people AGAIN. Last note, who is behind the trust that owns the 1.4 acres in the middle of the strawberry fields? It seems they have much to gain if this mall goes through.

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