Although the Coastal Act and other environmental protections probably will prevent anyone from converting North County's lagoons into parking lots, there are many development proposals that will affect both the ecology and the aesthetics of the remaining wetlands.
What follows is a summation of the major projects planned for the shores of the lagoons.
This fresh-water lagoon, which sits between Oceanside and Carlsbad, and much of its shoreline are in a state-owned ecological reserve.
Hughes Investments of Newport Beach, however, owns 27 acres on the lagoon's northeast shore. The company plans a commercial center with several small stores, restaurants, a bank and a department store on 17 acres, and hopes to build an office complex on the remaining 10 acres. Hughes has obtained Coastal Commission approval of the commercial center; construction is expected to begin late this year.
An Irvine-based developer, Cal Communities Inc., plans to build 1,600 housing units and a small commercial center on 433 acres northeast of this large and deep lagoon, situated south of downtown Carlsbad. The project, which has been approved by the City of Carlsbad and is due before the Coastal Commission this month, is opposed by some local residents because it would require the extension of Cannon Road, which would traverse some wetland areas.
Coastal Commission planners say that although the plans contain some controversial points, the developer has offered to improve tidal action to the inner channels of the lagoon, fence and protect some sensitive wetlands, and construct a badly needed situation basin to trap sediment released from Agua Hedionda Creek.
If all goes as planned, Texas oil and silver magnates W. Herbert and Nelson Bunker Hunt will begin construction of the Pacific Rim Country Club and Resort on 1,385 acres north of Carlsbad's Batiquitos Lagoon early next year. The project includes an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, a hotel and a residential community likely to rival neighboring La Costa.
Architectural plans have not been completed, but officials of Hunt Properties Inc., the development arm of the Hunt empire, say they envision a "resort-style development" with more than 5,400 housing units clustered along the ridges and among the eucalyptus trees bordering Batiquitos.
Still awaiting approval by the City of Carlsbad and the state Coastal Commission, the Pacific Rim master plan contains several points of controversy. Among these are the lodge and restaurant the Hunts propose to build in two corners of the lagoon's east bay, structures that state Department of Fish and Game biologists say would encroach on the wetland and thus violate the Costal Act.
Fish and Game officials also oppose a "meandering scenic route" the Hunts hope to build along the northeastern shore of Batiquitos, saying the road's alignment crosses the 100-foot buffer that the Coastal Act requires between development and wetland areas.
Across the freeway, Sammis Properties plans to build the Batiquitos Lagoon Educational Park on 166 acres on the mesa above the lagoon's western bays. Few specifics have been released, but company chairman Donald Sammis said the project will include graduate schools in law, political economy, communications, architecture and land use, plus related research and development facilities. A hotel, convention center, commercial complex and more than 600 residential units of the "early California, Irving Gill style" will also be built, Sammis said.
Because details of the plan are sketchy, officials with regulatory agencies say they cannot determine the impact the Sammis development would have on the lagoon. But an initial concern of the Coastal Commission is whether improving access to the proposed campus would require the construction of new freeway offramps and, if so, where they would be built.
Last month, the Coastal Commission awarded MiraCosta College a permit to build a branch campus on 43 sloping acres just north of this lagoon, which divides Solana Beach and Cardiff. But citizen and commission staff members' concerns about increased traffic and erosion prompted the coastal panel to attach conditions to the plan.
Among these are strict grading standards and a requirement that an open space easement allowing wildlife to travel from the bluffs above the lagoon to its shores be preserved. In addition, enrollment at the branch campus was limited to 3,000 and any widening of Manchester Road, which skirts San Elijo's north shore, must be done upland of the lagoon.
The conditions mollified some opponents, but others worry that the high traffic flow the campus is expected to generate and the development's proximity to the lagoon will frighten away several endangered birds that nest and feed at San Elijo.