Meadowood Development Moves Ahead Despite Native American Opposition
Friday, October 7, 2011
Aired 10/10/11 on KPBS News.
A plan to develop more than 844 new homes east of Interstate 15 in North County is facing opposition from Native American bands.
The proposed Meadowood development complies with the County’s new General Plan for growth, but it has stumbled over another complication. Native American bone fragments were found earlier this year where an access road is about to be built.
Representatives of five Native American bands begged the County Planning Commission to give them more time to excavate the area before approving the project.
The developer, Pardee, said they have already created open space to preserve culturally sensitive areas, and the Native Americans did not raise objections in 2005 when they were consulted.
But Dorothy Alther, speaking for the Rincoln Band, said back then they did not know how important the area was.
“Finding these remains changed the whole game,” she said.
The remains were found when someone was removing a tree. The Native American Heritage Commission in Sacramento has declared the bones most likely belong to an ancestor of the San Luis Rey Band.
Mel Vernon is the band’s Captain.
“It’s disturbing for us to disturb our ancestors that we see as resting,” he said. “So when this happens, we take it to heart. They want to build a new village on top of the old village and we’re not moving the old village.“
The bands want to investigate an area to the west of the proposed road to see if it is clear of Native American remains, and to see if it could be an alternative route.
Planning Commission Chairman Leon Brooks wondered if that would really offer a solution.
“I suspect that almost anywhere in North County, we are going to find remains,” he said.
County staff said an alternative route for the road could cost between several hundred thousand and several million dollars. It might also infringe on wetlands and reduce access for other residents.
Commissioner David Pallinger was diplomatic as he proposed the motion to approve the project.
“I want to be clear that it in no way minimizes the cultural importance to the Native American community,” he said. “We have the utmost respect for your heritage and beliefs, but the decision before us is really a land use decision based on the facts that we have."
Some commissioners questioned how Native Americans can declare sites sacred with so little evidence. State law defines how sites are to be protected.
Tribal members said they keep the location of sites confidential to prevent looters.
They vowed to fight the development when it comes before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in about three months.