Press Release

Appeals Court Rules Newland Sierra to Stay on the Ballot

Court Affirms Lower Court Ruling In Favor of the No on Newland Team

No On Newland Press Release (pdf)

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In The News

Developer seeks to change wording of Newland Sierra ballot measure

Proposed Newland Sierra Site

“The campaign for Newland Sierra and their lawyers have worked behind the scenes to propose this backroom deal to change the ballot language,” a statement released by the “No on Newland Sierra” group states. “This is a desperate, shady deal between politicians and developers who now realize that a project with no affordable housing in a high fire danger area with massive traffic impacts is going to fail in March. The Board of Supervisors needs to affirm the language that was signed by more than 100,000 San Diego County voters rather than pass out favors to a developer who stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars on this sprawl project.” 

California faces fraught path out of wildfire, power crisis

Powerline worker

And the climate is warming. While scientists can’t blame climate change alone for any one fire, they say it contributes to drier brush, hotter temperatures and stronger winds, all of which help flames spread farther, faster. Five of the 10 largest fires and seven of the 10 most destructive have happened in the last decade. The deadliest were started by power lines. 

California says San Diego County could undermine state’s landmark plan to rein in greenhouse gases

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, right, flanked by Gov. Gavin Newsom

"The stakes are rising in a legal battle over whether San Diego County will be able to approve thousands of new housing units in wildfire-prone areas far from urban job centers using carbon offsets." 

The Attorney General recently came out in support of a Sierra Club lawsuit that challenges San Diego County’s carbon-offset plan to allow new suburban developments that generate significant amounts of greenhouse gas from cars and trucks.

Over 1,500 California fires in the past 6 years — including the deadliest ever — were caused by one company: PG&E. Here's what it could have done but didn't.

People embrace after fire devastated their home

"wildfires are expected to keep get [sic] bigger and more frequent.
Johnson, PG&E's CEO, has indicated that blackouts will probably continue to be the company's go-to strategy when risk is high.
"We'll likely have to make this kind of decision again in the future," he said at a news conference on October 10.
In the three weeks since that statement, the company has cut power four times." 

More Californians Could Lose Home Insurance After Wildfires

Fire Fighter battles blaze

“There’s a lot of areas that have gone from being difficult to insure to just basically impossible,” said Timothy Gaspar, chief executive of Gaspar Insurance Services, an insurance agency in Woodland Hills, Calif. “It is something that’s going to continue to get worse.” 

In California, more than 340,000 lose wildfire insurance

Camp Fire Blazes

"There are many things Californians can do to prepare for these blazes, but one option – taking out wildfire insurance – is out of reach for many of them. For example, after massive fires in 2018, an estimated 350,000 Californians could no longer get property and casualty insurance that also covered fire.
Over the past several years, premiums have risen significantly – as much as 300% to 500% in many cases. And in many high-risk areas, insurers are increasingly opting not to renew coverage." 

The same areas of California keep catching on fire. What about limits on home building?

House on fire

 In June, the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies released a poll that showed that three-quarters of California voters believe the state should restrain home building in areas at high risk of wildfires.

SDG&E Warns Of Possible Outages To Prevent Wildfires In Dry, Gusty Weather

Map of power outages

San Diego Gas & Electric announced this week that the utility may shut off power in certain parts of San Diego County due to forecasted weather conditions that could pose a danger to power lines and increase the risk of wildfires.

Is California ignoring the science on wildfire-prone housing

House on fire

Researchers say continued home building in high-fire areas threatens lives, makes big blazes more likely.

Cal Fire plans to rip out vegetation in San Diego County. But will that add fuel to a blaze?

Man holding flammable vegetation

"It’s like we drizzle all our roadsides with just a little bit of lighter fluid,” he said. “If we don’t manage them, the fire’s going to get off the roadside and into that chaparral, climb up that hill and get into that multimillion-dollar housing development." 

San Diego’s Climate Crisis: The Risks And Costs Of Living In The Backcountry

House on fire

Fire season used to be just that—a season. Now it's basically year-round, said Thomas Shoots, a spokesman for CAL FIRE 

San Diego ranks third in homes threatened by wildfires

Live action shot of houses on fire

More than 75,000 homes in San Diego are in areas that pose a "high" or "extreme" risk of wildfire, according to a new study by CoreLogic. 

Editorial: California leaders downplay the dangerous effects of sprawl during wildfires

Remains of house after a wildfire

The implications were pretty clear: In an era when climate change was expected to fuel more frequent and more devastating wildfires, California would need to stop promoting residential sprawl and build denser developments closer to city centers if it hoped to save lives and protect property. 

Opinion: Will Continued Sprawl or High-Density Infill Define San Diego’s Future?

Example of High Density Housing

We are left to ask ourselves: if we want our region to be less car-dependent, why not reign in the excesses of past urban sprawl, that have now gone too far out into the fringes where wildfires burn, and where too much energy will be wasted to move too many individual vehicles millions of miles across a mega-region each year? 

Environmental Laws Don't Impede Development

Site of Newland Sierra project

Some developers, like Newland Sierra (funding by Japanese investor, Sekisui House), have even gone as far as lobbying the federal government in D.C. to essentially bypass our local fish and wildlife regulators. There are dozens of harmful projects in the pipeline that will impact public health, create additional congestion, destroy habitat and open space, pollute the air and put upward of 40,000 people in some of the highest risk wildfire corridors in the state. 

Luxury Homes Won't Solve the Housing Crisis

Proposed site of Lilac Hills Ranch

 An army of public affairs firms is expending great effort to downplay the climate crisis and the danger of wildfires and to convince decision-makers and the public that luxury homes are the solution to affordability. 

Escondido Chamber of Citizens Partners up to Stop the Development

Escondido Chamber of Citizens Logo

Opposition to the Newland Sierra project is in high gear and the community is preparing for the fight.  ECOC is partnering with San Diego Deserves Better group that is leading the community in it’s fight against an ill-advised project that is wrong on all levels. 

North County Split Over Newland Sierra Development in Escondido

Peak of North Merriam Mountains

 

 “They want to put 2,000 homes the size of the city of Del Mar on top of a mountain range in a high fire hazard area,”  

North County community is split on a housing project that calls for seven new neighborhoods and about 2,000 homes off Interstate 15.

Businesses and labor leaders support the proposed Newland Sierra development near Escondido, while some neighbors reject it because they fear it will put the community at risk

Fate Of North County Housing Development Rests With San Diego Supervisors

YouTube screenshot from linked video

 The largest new housing development proposed in North County comes up for a vote before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Wednesday, September 26.
KPBS North County reporter Alison St John says Newland Sierra would build more than two thousand new homes to an area known, until now, for its wildlife and quiet retreat centers. 

Should housing developers be allowed to pay their way out of climate pollution?

Dollar signs in clouds

 Board of Supervisors is now on the verge of doubling down on allowing developers to pay their way out of climate pollution. Citing the state’s desperate need for housing, it’s poised to adopt a potentially precedent-setting strategy that would allow developers to buy millions of dollars in carbon offsets in exchange for building projects that dramatically increase the number of cars on the road. 

Proposed developments will dramatically increase traffic congestion along 1-15

Congested traffic blurred

 The full scope of the impact of these various developments is extremely important given that SANDAG does not plan for any transportation infrastructure improvements to the I-15 corridor north of Escondido until at least 2050, and that even then, funding for such improvements may be in jeopardy. 

Measure would force countywide votes on backcountry housing projects

Houses under construction

 “The public needs a vote so it’s not left to developers who come in from out of town, buy cheap land because it is zoned for very, very low density, and then go before a very compliant board of supimage399
Measure would force countywide votes on backcountry housing projects
ervisors and get their plans approved, make their windfall, leave town, and then go do it again,” said former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. 

County Officials Set to Consider Allowing Nearly 6,000 New Homes in High Wildfire Risk Areas

Wildfire gets nearer houses

 There’s an invisible line where human development meets flammable vegetation, and it’s where the most destruction from wildfires occurs.


It’s called the wildland-urban interface. In San Diego, developers are looking to build nearly 6,000 more homes along this frontline.


Lessons learned? Lilac Fire tested strategies drawn from '07 and '03 fires

Trees on fire

“When the Santa Ana winds come through, there’s no stopping them.”

What plays into making sure we are prepared to fight wildfires is: Air Power, Collaboration & Conflict, Weather and PLANNING!

Does ballot box planning make sense given recent results?

Open Fields

 Four times in the past three years, developer-intitiated ballot measures, all in the North County, have appeared on local ballots. All four times, they failed. Which raises the question, will more developer-sponsored ballot measures appear in the future? 

Battle brewing over Newland Sierra development

People discussing issues

A downsized proposal to build more than 2,100 homes in a mostly undeveloped area north of San Marcos and west of Interstate 15 was met with derision this week by many residents who successfully battled a larger project previously planned for the site.

The land in question is zoned for only about 100 homes, but the developers are seeking an amendment from the county that would allow massive project to move forward.

California's big labor backs San Diego sales-tax hike

Sales Tax sign

Measure A bankrolled by out-of-town infrastructure interests and one environmental group but “The infrastructure is just plain not here,” resident Dee Folse told Fox 5 News in March, “There’s only one way in and one way out of all these areas; there’s no way to evacuate.” 

New housing battle looms in North County

Newland Sierra site

 Like Lilac Hills, the project would require an amendment to the county General Plan, a hard-fought blueprint for future housing growth that focuses on minimizing urban sprawl and putting new homes in more densely populated areas. 

New plan for Merriam Mountains site

Merriam Mountains in the sunshine

 The board of supervisors rejected Merriam Mountains in 2010 by a 3-2 vote, with the majority of the panel saying the days of such sprawling housing developments in rural areas may be coming to an end. 

Merriam Mountains project starting over

Failure at shooting arrows

 It was the “wrong project, wrong time, wrong location,” Jacob said at the time. 

Judge Taylor's Ruling

Judge Taylor overturned the County’s threshold for evaluating GHG impacts.

Judge Ruling

 

On April 28, 2017, Judge Taylor ruled in favor of the Sierra Club, The Golden Door, our community and our environment.  He overturned the County’s threshold for evaluating GHG impacts.  His decision prevents developers from relying on a “pre-approved” GHG threshold that would have failed to adequately reduce GHG emissions.  As a result, it will be very difficult for Newland (or other any developer seeking a General Plan Amendment) to do a legally adequate GHG analysis in their Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before the County approves its Climate Action Plan some time next year.

As background, the County’s General Plan requires the County to prepare a Climate Action Plan as a comprehensive scheme to reduce GHG emissions in accordance with State-wide goals.  The Climate Action Plan would provide a “budget” of available GHG emissions for development across the entire County – a “zero sum” budget that accounts only for projects in the General Plan, not unplanned greenfield projects.  Any new proposed project still has to fit within the total GHG budget, and must be weighed carefully against other, better alternatives for new housing.

Developers, like Newland, should wait to publish their EIRs until the County has completed the Climate Action Plan and developed the “budget” for Countywide GHG emissions.  If a developer chooses to push forward with publishing their EIR in the near future, they will have to either use County’s GHG threshold which was just overturned in court or to make up a new GHG threshold “on the fly” – either of which creates a significant risk that project opponents could successfully sue the project over its GHG analysis.

For last week’s hearing, the Sierra Club had also requested that the judge halt ALL General Plan Amendments until the County completes its Climate Action Plan.  While the judge did not take that extraordinary step in his ruling, he chastised the County for dragging its feet on the Climate Action Plan and told the Sierra Club they could come back and try again in a few months if the County had not made significant progress.  This should send a clear signal to any developer that trying to approve a big project before the Climate Action Plan is completed would be a huge risk.


All in all, this was a big win for the environment and the community.  Developers won’t be able to rely on a pre-approved County threshold to get projects approved that exceed the budget for GHGs the County considered with its General Plan. 

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Paid for by Committee Against Newland Sierra and Bad Development; Committee Major Funding From Golden Door Properties