New Roads To Explore as area develops west of Rancho Bernardo

Development Opens Area West of Peñasquitos

New developments are a double-edged sword for the driving enthusiast.

As much as we might dislike homes — even if they sell for more than $1 million — taking over what was once grazing land, the new developments also open up some beautiful vistas and create some nice roads.

One such area is west of Rancho Peñasquitos, where the Del Sur community is under way.

Wandering around in new home developments is what got me started in day cruising. When I was a kid, we’d pile in the ’56 Chevy (or later, the ’64 Pontiac Catalina) and go for a drive on Sundays. My dad would follow the flags to the new developments, then we’d drive slowly down the street, checking out the homes. It was exciting when the poor souls living there hadn’t yet put up curtains and we could peek through the windows and see all the packing boxes. Well, it was a fun Sunday for us, at least.

Perhaps because I was driving a new Dodge Avenger R/T for the week (the spiritual heir to another one of our cars — a ’75 Dodge Dart ), I headed out to the area between I-15 and I-5 that’s just opening up on a mission to find some interesting new roads that would be appropriate driving for a family sedan.

So, today’s route will follow an old and disappearing country road, a new span with beautiful vistas and end up in one of our favorite family drive areas, Rancho Santa Fe.

Start on that “new town” road, state Route 56, the Ted Williams Freeway, which runs from I-5 near Del Mar, through Peñasquitos and ends at I-15 and the Ted Williams Parkway in Carmel Mountain Ranch. Exit at Carmel Valley Road, which at one time was a small country road, dirt at times and the only public thoroughfare from east-to-west in this area. It’s all paved now, and its new connection to Bernardo Center Road may be open as you read this.

Choosing to enter the area on Carmel Valley Road gives drivers a small stretch of the old days: a narrow two-lane highway where there’s still a nursery or two and views of a farm — at least looking north. Look south, and you’ll see tract homes that seem to completely fill their lots.

Heading north on Camino Del Sur is one of those areas that most folks don’t know exist, what the city of San Diego’s Planning Department once called the Black Mountain Ranch. First up is the Santaluz neighborhood, which appears to be pretty much built out. Homes dot the rolling hills, and much of the area has been preserved as open space.

This is a fairly rugged area, which is one of the reasons it took so long to develop. The road is only two lanes in most areas, will widened at some point to four, and might even include a monorail system at some point, according to Fred Maas, president of the new development to the north, Del Sur.

As our San Diego day trip continues north from Santaluz, Camino Del Sur has gentle curves and a pretty impressive bridged crossing of Lusardi Creek, the southern edge of Del Sur. There’s a cul-de-sac view point here, that offers great vistas to the southease, where a cut and pair of bridges for the new Carmel Valley Road are visible in the distance.

I ran into Maas at Del Sur’s “Ranch House,” a new, old-looking building (constructed with recycled beams and other reclaimed materials) that is the gateway to the 4,677-acre development. Plans for Lusardi Creek area aren’t finalized yet, but some of the hills are to remain undeveloped, as 60 percent of the tract will remain open space.

And by the way, homes start in the “low $600,000,” a bit more expensive than the  new developments in Clairemont, Escondido or San Carlos we saw on those long-ago family drives.

At Maas’ suggestion, I had lunch at Brett’s Barbecue, 10550 Craftsman Way, in the 4S Ranch retail center. It was worth the drive a few minutes north, as my pulled pork sandwich and cole slaw lunch were mighty fine. Just continue on Camino Del Sur, which runs into Camino Del Norte and you’ll see the center on your left. It includes a Ralphs market (fitting, as the Ralphs family once owned the land) and an assortment of other stores.

If barbecue isn’t on your menu, the first u-turn after crossing Lusardi Creek is at  Paseo Del Sur. Retrace your route south on Camino Del Sur.

Maas said this road only opened in mid-April and it appears drivers from Rancho Bernardo haven’t yet found this shortcut to SR-56 and I-5. It won’t take them long.

A turn north was made at San Dieguito Road, which heads into Fairbanks Ranch. Not long after the turn, there’s a small parking lot and hiking trail entry to the Black Mountain Open Space Park. This is the northwest corner of the park, which stretches all the way to where I-15 and SR-56 meet. There’s an extensive trail network (the map is online).

An exclusive community with a colorful past, Fairbanks Ranch was the getaway for silent screen stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Mary Pickford in the first half of the 20th century. Much later it was home to the equestrian events in the 1984 Olympics. Today, exclusive estates are tucked away behind a guarded gate; I didn’t venture inside.

There’s a small convenience center with a restaurant at the corner of El Apajo and San Dieguito Road, but the only thing open there on a Sunday was the Farm Fresh Market.

All of these roads were quite pleasant in the Avenger and would be nice in any car, including our old family sedans from the 50s and 60s.

Continuing up to Via de la Valle and after the right onto Paseo Delicias to follow county highway S-6, don’t miss the left turn onto El Camino Del Norte. On the Sunday I visited, there wasn’t much traffic on S-6, which can be very busy.

Of course, Rancho Santa Fe is one of the most exclusive communities in the nation, with its rolling hills and rambling, mostly Spanish-style homes. The prime property is within what’s called the covenant area, where the Rancho Santa Fe Association reviews many of the design features of a home and also keeps an eye on the grounds.

After passing through Olivenhain, then it’s over the hill on Leucadia Boulevard to I-5.

Progress chews up open space and creates places for San Diegans to live. Hitting a development in its early stages can make for a fun and eye-opening trip. Any excuse for a cruise through the county’s central coast is worth it.

Impressive twin spans over Lusardi Creek.

Route and Info

  • From June 2007

Distance

  • About 15 miles.

Difficulty

  • Easy.

Directions

  • Exit State Route 56 at Carmel Valley Road. Go north on Carmel Valley Road.
  • Left at Camino del Sur
  • Past Lusardi Creek bridge, make u-turn at Paseo Del Sur. Continue south on Camino del Sur.
  • Right at San Dieguito Road.
  • Right at El Apajo. Continue onto Via de Santa Fe.
  • Right at Via de la Valle.
  • Right at Paseo Delicias.
  • Left at El Camino del Norte.
  • Right at Rancho Santa Fe Road.
  • Left at Olivenhain Road. Continue onto Leucadia Boulevard and I-5.

Web Sites

Never highly thought of, but the fully loaded Dodge Avenger was a lot of fun.

Exclusive estates of Fairbanks Ranch is the destination for San Dieguito Road.

Home in Fairbanks Ranch has orange grove in front yard.

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