By Mark Jackson, former Valley Center Community Planning Group member
Map by Tristan Loper and Maya Srikrishnan
October 11, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) - The Lilac Hills Ranch development put forward by San Diego County Measure B claims to be good for the region’s housing needs. In fact, it would not make a dent in the county’s affordable housing shortage. It would also endanger the very people who purchase homes in the development in the event of a wildfire. For these and many other reasons, I urge all county residents to vote No on B.
This developer has been hard at work for years trying to push through its proposal to build 1,700 homes and 90,000 square feet of retail space on agricultural land that is currently zoned for only 110 homes. When the Lilac Hills Ranch proposal failed to gain approval through traditional channels – including a vote from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors – developer Accretive Investments decided to pull an end-run around local decision makers and try its luck with the voters instead.
Indeed, Measure B is a watered-down version of the proposal that Accretive once brought before the County Planning Commission. Unsurprisingly, Measure B gives the developer everything it wants, and conveniently leaves out some of the Planning Commission’s most stringent recommendations aimed and ensuring the health and safety of future Lilac Hills Ranch residents.
For example, we all know that fires are a frequent occurrence in our region. That’s why San Diego County has a 5-minute rule for fire and other emergency response times. But Measure B lets the developer off the hook for meeting this requirement, meaning that future Lilac Hills Ranch residents may not get the help they need in a timely manner if a wildfire ignites near the development.
The Project is in Cal fire Very High (red) and High (yellow) Fire Severity Hazard Zones as can be seen in the map above.
In addition, the narrow, winding country roads around the proposed development cannot handle the increased traffic of an additional 5,000 people. This would be true even under everyday conditions; the development is projected to generate more than 19,000 new car trips every day. In the event of an emergency evacuation due to wildfire, the situation would be untenable. The residents of Lilac Hill Ranch, the veterans living and working on a nearby agricultural project and other existing area residents would all be put at grave risk because of the lack of adequate road improvements under Measure B.
Then there are the unsavory politics and business practices that are driving this ill-conceived measure. The developer failed to get a blank check from the county Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors despite years of attempts, so it spent more than a million dollars to buy a place on the ballot. A Superior Court judge acknowledged that the public was misled by the campaign to place the measure on the ballot, where signature gatherers claimed that Lilac Hills Ranch would provide affordable housing and homes for veterans. Neither of these claims is true.
Ultimately, Measure B is symbolic of everything that could go wrong with land use planning in San Diego County. The ballot box is no place to decide when and how to change the General Plan, or to approve a project designed to enrich a single developer. Determining where new housing should be placed is complicated, and there’s a reason the County already spent $18M to develop its General Plan to do just that.
Measure B would create a dangerous, expensive boondoggle for all San Diego County residents. That’s why all county residents should to come together to defeat Measure B this November.
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.