CARLSBAD, Calif. – The Los Angeles-based retail developer looking to build a controversial shopping center in Carlsbad conceded defeat in the special election over the project, although the final results have not been tabulated.
As of Monday afternoon, Measure A was losing by a margin of 51.99 to 48.01 percent, a 1,556 vote margin. The San Diego Registrar of Voters reported that there were still 300 ballots left to count.
"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," Rick Caruso said in a statement.
Caruso said he called the leaders of the opposition to congratulate them on their campaign.
"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."
Caruso proposed a 26-acre complex with shops, a movie theater and restaurants that overlook the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. He planned to build on 15 percent of 203 acres he controlled near Interstate 5 and Cannon Road. A family-run U-pick strawberry farm on the property would have been allowed to remain in operation.
The plans were approved last year by the Carlsbad City Council, but opponents -- concerned about the size of the proposed buildings and worsening traffic congestion -- collected enough petition signatures to force it to a public vote.
Caruso, the developer behind such open air shopping malls as The Grove in Los Angeles, The Americana at Brand in Glendale and The Commons in Calabasas, held numerous meetings with residents to get input on the future of the land. The future of the strawberry fields has been controversial in Carlsbad over the past decade or so, with continuing development in the city eating up much of the remaining open space. In 2006, residents were able to prevent another developer from purchasing the land and building hundreds of homes and shops.