Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso has conceded a close special election held Feb. 23, in which Carlsbad voters apparently defeated his company’s proposed lagoon-adjacent retail center and open-space project that appeared on the ballot as Measure A.
Opposition to the project was led by a group called Citizens for North County. According to the county Registrar of Voters, unofficial results as of Feb. 26 showed the No side with 19,425 votes (51.52 percent) and the Yes side with 18,282 votes (48.48 percent).
As of 3 p.m. Feb. 26, there were approximately 2,250 mail and provisional ballots still to be counted.
“I have called the leadership of the Citizens for North County and congratulated them on their hard fought campaign,” said Caruso, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, in a statement issued Feb. 29. “This was a close election with a historically strong voter turnout on both sides. Both sides share a common love for their Carlsbad community, a sentiment we share.
“While we had hoped for a different outcome, we are proud of our effort, our plan, the integrity of our message, and we are thankful for the great friends and supporters we have made over the past four years,” Caruso said. “We are very grateful for their support and hard work.”
The apparent defeat of the measure came despite Measure A proponents reportedly spending more than $10 million in pre-election campaign advertising – about 10 times that of opponents. It was not immediately known whether Caruso Affiliated would be revising or resubmitting plans for the project, or whether the developer would be terminating its contract to purchase the land from SDG&E.
Caruso’s proposal had called for a Nordstrom-anchored lifestyle center on 26 acres of a larger 203-acre site adjacent to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, off Cannon Road near Interstate 5.
The election results must still be certified by the registrar and City Council, likely within the next 30 days. If Measure A is certified to have failed, the ordinance approving the plan would be rescinded 10 days following the election certification by the City Council.
At any time, city officials said, Caruso Affiliated could submit the Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan, or another plan, to the city via the traditional development process. That process includes analysis for consistency with the California Environmental Quality Act and review by the California Coastal Commission.
However, the City Council cannot approve a new ordinance for that site for 12 months following certification of the election results.