Environmental concerns, conflict of interests by Lightner raised
By Miriam Raftery
September 16, 2013 (San Diego) – San Diego’s City Council will hold a hearing today at 2 p.m. on the controversial Castlerock housing project. The project is proposed by Pardee Homes near the boundary between Santee and San Diego. The Planning Commission previously recommended annexing land for the project to Santee. Council has the option to approve, modify or disapprove the project and if approved, to determine whether or not it should be transferred to Santee’s jurisdiction.
Campaign contribution forms reveal that Council President Sherri Lightner accepted $4300 in donations from 12 Pardee Homes employees during her primary challenge. “If Pardee reimbursed its employees, the contributions would be illegal. Regardless of the contributions legality, we believe Pardree’s contributions are an inappropriate attempt to purchase your vote for a quadruple up-zone on Castlerock,” wrote Van Collingsworth, executive director of Preserve Wild Santee, in a letter to Lightner.
Comments submitted jointly by the Chaparral Institute and Preserve Wild Santee raised serious concerns over water supplies, traffic, environmental and public health impacts if the project is built near Mission Trails Regional Park.
“The subdivision proposes to locate over 400 families in an area already negatively impacted by landfill gas, odor and particulate emissions. The DEIR completely ignores this issue,’ the letter stated, noting that the landfill has also sought to quadruple its daily tonnage and operate 24 hours a day. The environmentalists’ letter asks, “Are the houses proposed to have air filtration systems or any other measures to mitigate the poor air and declining air quality risks?”
San Diego Coastkeepers objected to the project because “San Diego’s current water supply cannot support the addition of the project,” among other reasons.
The project could also eliminate vernal pools housing endangered fairy shrimp, negatively impact water quality in creeks and increase traffic on Mast Boulevard, causing potential gridlock during rush hour or worse, evacuations in a wildfire, opponents say.
Pardee contends the master-planned project is needed to provide housing and would also bring construction jobs short-term to the region. The project’s website says it would “offer the comfortable convenience of urban living adjacent to one of San Diego’s most stunning natural landscapes.” It could include up to 430 homes on 204 acres.
The City of Santee has sought annexation if the project is built, arguing it should receive property taxes since the City would need to provide police, fire and other emergency services to residents.
Enviornmentalist have argued that the site be preserved instead of developed, or that a dramatically scaled back version of the housing project be considered instead.