East County News Service
February 20, 2020 (Santee) – A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Santee, claiming the city erred in passing its Climate Action Plan and a related environmental impact report without accounting for potential emissions from Fanita Ranch, Home Fed’s proposed project that would add 3,000 homes and increase traffic on already congested roadways.
The suit was filed in San Diego Superior Court by three environmental advocacy groups: Preserve Wild Santee, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Climate Action Campaign.
Fanita Ranch would require an amendment to the city’s general plan. The project could also be subject to a vote of the people if a ballot initiative passes in November, which would give residents a say on projects that exceed density allowed in the general plan.
The city’s climate action plan (CAP), called Sustainable Santee, passed in January by the City Council, along with the environmental impact report. The CAP cost the city $275,000 in a process begun in 2014.
But the suit contends that this violated the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The plaintiffs contend that the climate action plan creates a loophole that would allow Fanita Ranch’s developer to avoid consideration of mitigation options to reduce the project’s negative impacts on the climate.
The lawsuit states, “Thanks to this loophole in the CAP, the Fanita Ranch project has been given a pre-approval free pass on its greenhouse gas emissions, and the CAP has missed a prime opportunity to address the single project that will be responsible for most of the city’s new emissions.”
The court is being asked to order Santee to rescind certification of the EIR and prevent Fanita Ranch from skirting environmental review by relying only on the climate action plan. The city has not conducted an environmental analysis on Fanita Ranch specifically.
“The climate emergency demands real, enforceable measures to cut pollution, not free passes to sprawl,” said attorney John Buse from the Center for Biological Diversity, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
HomeFed Corp. and the city manager declined comment, according to the Union-Tribune.