By Miriam Raftery
Photo: More than 50 Borrego residents made the long trip from the desert to show opposition to the project.
September 13, 2018 (Borrego Springs) – By a 3-2 vote, San Diego Supervisors rejected a request to upzone 169 acres in Borrego Springs. The proposed Borrego Country Club Estate project sought to build 169 homes on land currently zoned for just 16 residences.
The site known to locals as “Rudyville” is located in south Borrego Springs on land that includes ancient Ocotillo groves and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, among other species of concern.
The state has ordered Borrego to reduce its water consumption by 75 percent due to the community using more groundwater than is being replenished by rainfall, a fact that proved the key factor in blocking the project.
“Groundwater is the lifeblood of these communities,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who voted against the project as well as a proposal to send the plan back to staff to work on a compromise.
The Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy launched “Borrego Knows Best” (www.BorregoKnowsBest.com) to oppose the project.
David Garmon (photo, right) led a coalition of more than 50 Borrego residents who made the nearly three hour drive from Borrego to the hearing at the County Administration Building in San Diego.
“I am ecstatic about the outcome,” he told East County Magazine. “This is a wonderful culmination of 12 years of opposition to this terrible project.”
He praised Supervisor Jacob, adding, “It was really her understanding of the testimony that resulted in this outcome.” Jacob was joined in her opposition by Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox.
Supervisor Bill Horn, who represents Borrego, voted for the project, alone with Kristine Gaspar.
“For reasons that I don’t understand, Supervisor Horn has always been supportive of these investors and seemingly to the expense of the rest of the community,” Garmon said.
Chris Brown, an owner of the land and a land use lobbyist/consultant who ahs worked for Supervisor Horn for many years, told Supervisors that what was at stake was a “fairness issue,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. He argued that zoning should be returned to what it was 25 years ago. He said he bought the property in 2005 when it was zoned at one house per acre, but a new General Plan approved in 2011 changed that to one house per 10 acres.
But a quarter century ago, the water issue wasn’t as critical as it is today.
“The existing zoning, as it is right now, would allow the building of 10,000 dwelling units for all of the Borrego Valley. We have maybe 125 units and we’re looking at a 75 percent reduction in water,” Garmon observes. “That’s why it makes absolutely no sense to exacerbate this problem. It would be misleading to everybody to say let’s upzone this, and make it available for more dwelling units, when we already can’t supply the dwelling units that we already have.”
The supervisors’ rejection of the project is consistent with staff’s recommend and findings in an environmental impact report and supplemental environmental impact report, making a legal challenge appear unlikely.
Supervisor Jacob suggested the property owner’s best option may be to donate the land to a land conservancy group for preservation as open space.
Photo, left: Ocotillos at the site
Photo, right: Peninsular Bighorn sheep