Carmel Valley area looking east 2007
Proposition M did provide for the preservation of the vernal pools at Carmel Mountain. Pardee, the major developer, gave it's property on Carmel Mountain to the city of San Diego in exchange for the rights to develop a much larger parcel of land, Pacific Highlands Ranch.
Pacific Highlands Ranch advertises, "Living Smart: Energy Smart." Literature in one model home extols the seven-day programmable heating and cooling system, set up for maximum energy efficiency. Yet the total electric bill for a three bedroom home in an older neighborhood in San Diego is less than half of the estimated bill for these "energy efficient" new homes. Between 1950 and 2000 the average size of a new home more than doubled. Air conditioning, a rarity in older homes, is standard in these homes only five miles from the beach.
A very few models had solar panels incorporated into the roof during construction. This innovative design could be completed without any of the drilling into the roof required of traditional panels. But despite the big billboard advertising solar homes along Interstate 5, these panels were only included in 10-15% of the homes constructed. Solar panels were also offered as an add-on for other homes, costing roughly $18,000 for homes starting at $900,000, but salespeople said that many buyers preferred other options, such as marble countertops. When solar power was first being developed in the 1970s, electric companies offered strong incentives for homebuilders to use electric power, stifling the development of affordable solar energy. Are market forces still inhibiting the use of solar power?
These homes also offered other sustainable options, like the use of low VOC paints, or more sustainable flooring. What if LEED certification had been a requirement in these new homes? Even if not a legal requirement, what if new home buyers expected homes to meet these standards?
What can be learned from this experience? In the future, what level of energy efficient construction must anyone concerned with the health of our planet demand?