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Local News October 11th, 2007

Westfield To Expand

Plans are afoot to expand and remodel Westfield North County (which some old-timers still call the North County Fair, it’s original name).

The 86-acre mall plans to expand from an existing 1.2 million squre feet to 1.7 million square feet.

While some critics are saying the expansion should take the form of a more neighborly environment . . . with socializing and entertainment type venues, thus far, officials from Westfield indicate they’re staying with plan A . . . which is to simply expand the already successful format of the shopping center.

Vista has built a new downtown shopping district with a variety of entertainment venues; San Marcos has recently approved plans for a similar center that would go beyond simple retail stores and provide for large outdoor cafes, an amphitheatre, and many condominiums, blending shopping and living into one totally new lifestyle. More and more, mixed use planning has come to the fore. In Escondido, city officials have discussed the idea of multi-use buildings in the downtown area. They like the idea of townhomes, apartments, condos, on the second floor and retail/office facilities on the first floor. It brings the market to the market, so to speak. Downtown residents can comfortably go shopping and enjoy fine dining mere steps from their home.

That relaxed ambience is perhaps not exactly what critics would like to see at Westfield, but it would head in that direction. Still, heading in that direction is not only possible but quite likely, say both company officials and city leaders. Since downtown Escondido is heading toward a more urban and culturally rich downtown district, that atmosphere should link up nicely with an expanded mall. A new luxury hotel planned for the downtown area will simply add to that atmosphere, officials believe.

Westfield management is open to suggestions but they point out the lack of land is a consideration, being surrounded by Kit Carson Park. There simply is insufficient land to begin planning on large condominium or townhome type units, which could be tied into a ‘district’ such as the downtown districts nationwide seem to be developing.

Originally opening as the North County Fair in 1986, the shopping center has been a brilliant success, generating high sales tax revenue for the city of Escondido. While development of traditional malls seems to be ebbing, giving way to more urbane lifestyle centers and downtown district type shopping centers, Westfield management seems generally pleased with their successful path and will likely go with their original plans.

Lucas Ross, general manager of Westfield North County, said plans include some outdoor retail areas as well as the possibility of a movie theater, maybe even a 140-room hotel. But those are simply ideas at this stage, he said. "Our goal is to make the mall more friendly and inviting, because shoppers are interested in a more relaxed, casual environment."

Large Fine Has Vista and Carlsbad Worried

Wondering where and how to come up with the money to pay a potential $1.1 million dollar fine recommended by the San Diego County Regional Water Quality Control Board has both Vista and Carlsbad exploring possible sources. The problem stems from a massive sewage spill into Buena Vista Lagoon last spring. Vista and Carlsbad jointly own the sewer line that ruptured, so each will have to pay its proportional share of the fine, if and when imposed. It has created a hardship. It doesn’t seem fair to many critics for the cities to increase rates to the users. That’s penalizing the ratepayers for management errors, they say. Project delays is another possible remedy. No remedy is palatable but one must be found somewhere.

The fine money could be better spent on buying new sewer lines, they said. The break in late March and early April sent 7.3 million gallons of raw sewage into the lagoon between Oceanside and Carlsbad, killing 1,700 fish and four birds. Vista owns nearly 90 percent of the faulty sewer line and would pay that portion of a fine; Carlsbad owns the rest. Carlsbad and Vista have until November 13 to submit any additional information they wish considered prior to a hearing set for Dec.ember 12th, at which time a decision as to whether to impose a fine, and to what degree, is made.

The cities plan to provide an accounting “that demonstrates that the spill repairs and clean-up response actions have already cost the cities a considerable amount.”

The proposed fine, city officials said, could be better spent on improving the lines. “A million dollars still buys a lot of pipeline,” said Larry Pierce, Vista's director of engineering.

“All the work that we do on the sewer system to keep it maintained and the right size ultimately is to protect the environment from a sewer spill and to be able to provide that service,” Pierce said.

Two Vista City Council members said the proposed fine was too high. “The way I look at it, it was an accident,” Councilman Steve Gronke said. “We shouldn't have to pay a fine if it was an accident.”

Gronke said the city worked to clean up the spill “as diligently as we could.” He said the proposed fine, though, is much less than the $73 million the board gave in its report as the possible maximum.

Vista Community Clinic Offers Flu Shots

Flu and pneumonia vaccines will be available for high-risk patients on a walk-in basis from 8am to 10am, on October 17, 24, 31 and November 7 and 14 at the Vale Terrace Branch, 1000 Vale Terrace, Vista. The vaccines will also be available at the same times on Oct. 16, 23, 30 and Nov. 6 at the Pier View Way Branch, 818 Pier View Way, Oceanside.

The cost of the flu shot is $4 per person. The cost of the pneumonia vaccine is $33. The high risk groups include: adults over the age of 50, children under the age of 5, caregivers and people in any age category who have chronic illnesses such as chronic heart or lung problems, asthma, diabetes, etc., as well as anyone living with infants less than 6 months old.

For more information about the clinic's flu and pneumonia vaccines, call (760) 631-5000, Ext. 1115.

Sprinter Behind Schedule: Rail Scale Is Blamed

The Sprinter’s construction schedule has been set back because of a rustlike substance on the Sprinter's new metal rails. Plans for a December opening for the light-rail line may be in jeopardy.

The entire 22-mile line from Escondido to Oceanside was to have been ready for testing by this past Monday. However, trains still aren't moving all the way from Escondido to Oceanside.

In addition to the scale-like rust coating on the steel rails, which could interfere with electircal conductivity, there are also signaling equipment problems, officials say. The Sprinter's $480 million metal rails are a critical component in sending signals to railroad crossing equipment.

Signaling has been a problem for the Sprinter in 2007.

Carlsbad Optimists Club Installs New Officers

The Optimist Club of Carlsbad "The Achievers" recently held their yearly installation of officers for the 2007-08 Optimist year. One of the highlights of the event is when the outgoing president announces the one person out of all club members that is selected as Optimist of the Year.

Jeannie Esposito, was recognized with a special Presidents Citation, based on her many contributions to the Optimist Club’s events to benefit youth. She handled all Guest Speakers, Oratorical Contest and served on Board of Directors. Another first the club awarded Chris Nagle "Rookie of the Year" for his exceptional efforts and results.

Last year, 2005-2006 Linda Gans was selected by outgoing President Joe Tosto as Optimist the year. This year, 2006-2007 Mike Gans was selected by outgoing President Gil Groves as Optimist of the Year. This was a first for the Optimist Club of Carlsbad. Gil Groves commented it was a very difficult decision, as so many members of the club contributed so much.

Linda & Mike Gans

Outgoing President Gil Groves in Hawaiian shirt and Mike Doody, new President accepting the Bell and Gavel.

Money Woes Hit Escondido Country Club Subdivision

Most, if not all, residents who bought into a lovely subdivision near the Escondido Country Club, had no idea that the land site was a former dump. Now, state officials are demanding that they pay for the cleanup of the toxins that are in the ground under the 39-home subdivision. They worry that what's left of the trash-burning dump, which operated from 1949 to 1953, could bankrupt some of them and threaten their ability to sell their homes.

Residents of Country Club Woods, a cul-de-sac community of Spanish-style homes built in 1985 in north Escondido, are talking with county and state officials about how to clean up the underground remains of the Benton Burn Dump. Many residents say they bought their homes without knowing the dump ever existed. The homeowners association owns the adjacent canyon, which has lead and other toxins buried in it, county and state authorities say. The county, as the enforcement agency for the state, is requiring the association to clean up the site. If it doesn't comply in a reasonable amount of time, the county says it will do the cleanup and send the association the bill.

Although residents say the site isn't their problem, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, created in 1989, requires that owners of land with toxic waste bring the land into environmental, health and safety compliance. Most of the residents are seniors. This week, representatives from the state board and the county met with frustrated homeowners. How much the cleanup itself will cost is anyone's guess at this point. So far, city of Escondido officials, who approved the site for development originally, are denying responsibility, as are the real estate brokers/agents who sold the property. Studies continue by residents and officials.





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