One after the other, builders offered native authorities officers lately on the promise of including 1000’s of a lot wanted properties to the San Diego area by putting them within the rural fringes of North and East County — together with in areas the place brush fires had lately burned down properties and clogged evacuation routes.
The environmental evaluations, required by state regulation, repeatedly stated they had been secure. The tasks bought the okay from native hearth officers and elected officers.
However in no less than six main developments, critics say, there was an issue. All of those evaluations had been carried out by consultants employed by the very builders who need to construct the properties. In six lawsuits introduced within the final 4 years, challengers suing to dam the developments stated the evaluations had been flawed and incomplete, distinguished by a failure to completely analyze how new housing would clog evacuation routes or result in extra fires.
Now, these challenges are more and more gaining traction, notching incremental victories in court docket and reshaping how native officers evaluate growth in fire-prone areas.
In February, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted a brand new coverage that county leaders say will restrict new growth in rural excessive hearth danger areas.
A San Diego County spokesperson advised inewsource the county can be contemplating overhauling the way it does the evaluations, together with the county’s reliance on builders to check tasks — however nothing has modified to date.
In three latest circumstances, judges have dominated that native officers failed to completely analyze the wildfire dangers of large-scale housing developments, leading to these tasks being blocked, some with extra finality than others.
- Within the Concord Grove Village South challenge close to Escondido, which promised 453 properties, a superior court docket blocked the challenge out of fireside security considerations. Nevertheless, an appeals decide disagreed with the decrease court docket, saying hearth officers have discretion to deem tasks secure, although the decide blocked the event on different grounds associated to emissions.
- A court docket additionally blocked the Fanita Ranch growth in Santee, the place practically 3,000 properties had been promised. The developer is working with native officers to redo the evaluate.
- A challenge referred to as Otay Ranch Village 14, promising 1,119 housing items east of Chula Vista, additionally was blocked in court docket. The choice has been appealed. However the challenge faces a robust opponent: California Legal professional Common Rob Bonta has joined plaintiffs in arguing that native officers failed to completely analyze the wildfire dangers of the challenge.
“As these mega-disasters turn out to be the norm, it’s extra important than ever that we construct responsibly,” Bonta stated after the challenge was blocked, referring to fires fueled by local weather change. “We are able to’t maintain making the identical errors.”
Learn the complete article on inewsource.org.
Get investigative reporting in your inbox. Join inewsource’s newsletters.