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Lilac Hills Ranch Proposal Challenges County General Plan

Aired 7/3/13 on KPBS News.

One of the largest new developments proposed for San Diego County’s rural back country reaches a milestone Wednesday: The Lilac Hill Ranch would add more than 1,700 homes in the hills north of Escondido, currently zoned for 110 homes.

The planned community of Lilac Hills Ranch is billed as a sustainable, smart growth development in the rolling hills east of Interstate 15. The area is currently a rural community where West Lilac Road winds between scattered homes and small farms.

Chris Brown, of the developer Accretive Investments, said the Draft Environmental Impact Report, a collection of more than 50 documents, was released Wednesday.

“It’s a 1,746 unit project,” Brown said, “that consists of parks, trails, open space, agriculture. There’ll be commercial elements, schools, obviously homes, and then at the very final stages of the project there’ll be some senior care facility.”

But local resident Mark Jackson said if this plan is approved, nothing in the county’s general plan is safe. County Supervisors spent more than a decade updating their general plan to specify areas where future growth would occur, Jackson said, and Lilac Hills was not one of them.

“The general plan, approved in August 2011, has the area designed as semi-rural,” he said, “and the general plan was designed for a reason, because of the topography. There is inadequate infrastructure to support that level of urban density.“

Youtube - Mark Jackson

West Lilac Road

Jackson said the site is linked to Interstate 15 by miles of narrow country roads that cannot sustain thousands of extra commuters. The nearest major employment centers, he said, are in places like San Marcos and Rancho Bernardo.

Brown of Accretive said the developer plans to work with the county to contribute to improvements in the two lane road in some places. He said the general plan amendment process allows for changes.

“The argument that just because it took 14 years to do something, you don’t touch it or change it, I don’t agree,” he said, “ I think you change it if it needs to be changed, and you change it to accommodate growth, new techniques, new planning, new technology — it’s a living breathing document.”

When asked why the supervisors had agreed to zone the area for just 110 homes during the exhaustive general plan update process, county staff replied:

“Please note that general plans set the general philosophy and policies that determine what gets built where, and how communities will accommodate growth, while preserving character and protecting what the community values. But, planning systems also allow people to propose projects that would require general plan amendments because they do not conform to the general plan in some way. General Plan Amendments are required to go through rigorous environmental study and to be approved by the County Board of Supervisors.”

The public has 45 days to comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report for Lilac Hills Ranch.

Brown said he hopes the San Diego County’s Planning Commission will vote on the project later this year, followed soon after by a vote of the Board of Supervisors. But county staff said a vote on the project is not expected until later next year.

Comments

Avatar for user 'aztec69'

aztec69 | July 3, 2013 at 9:41 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

A few thoughts: 1) Col. and Mrs. Irving Solomon must be rolling in their graves. 2) It maes no sense for the California Conservancy to be acquiring land in this area to try and save it when the developers are running rampart trying to make a fast buck. 3) I've been roaming that area for over 50 years and its part of what makes San Diego San Diego. The fact that so few people knew about it made it all the more previous. Anybody who drives or walks through that area can see that the topography doesn't allow for the kind of infrastructure that project would need, unless the taxpayers pay for it. 4) I looked at the Accretive project web site and noticed two things: There was no info on the developer or who's behind this scheme; and if you read the Legal Notice it is frightening. The developer reserves the right to change the proposa at any time for any reason, etc. It's carte blanche to rape, loot, and pillage at will. I haven't been this outraged since the Navy built the new Navy Hospital in Balboa Park. Mark my words, if this goes through those beautiful old oaks are fire wood.

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Avatar for user 'aztec69'

aztec69 | July 3, 2013 at 9:46 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Ah, they do have a corporate web site http://www.accretivellc.com One name stands out, Edgar Bronfman, Jr. That explains everything. Well, almost everything. Do you think he'd be willing to live in a project like this? I don't think so.

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Avatar for user 'jerzo'

jerzo | July 3, 2013 at 1:44 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

My wife and I have lived nearby for over two years.

Accessing the site from either Interstate 15 or Old Highway 395 involves traversing very narrow, winding - sometimes very tight winding - roads that include some blind curves. It will be very expensive to remedy this road issue.

Additionally, the developers plan to utilize lots of groundwater pumping in order to satisfy the water needs of this project. They claim that using well water is sustainable. How is it sustainable to use fossil water for this purpose? Hello! We are entering climate change & global weirding that will result in a serious reduction in the snowpack that most of California depends on for water. Additionally, water from the Colorado river is oversubscribed, and can't rationally be considered sustainable.

In the final analysis, should the potential profits of the developers take priority over the needs of neighbors for safe travel on existing roads and the neighbors use of current wells to irrigate small avocado and citrus orchards?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | July 3, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Just what we need! More people! San Diego certainly doesn't have enough.

Our roads have more tumbleweeds than cars.

Too many animals and trees. Too much open space. Too much nature!

Too much power. We need more air conditioners to run 24/7!

Way too much water. Fill more pools and irrigate more lawns!

Our unemployment rate is 0.0%, so we obviously need more workers.

Clean air? Boring. I want to wear fashionable face masks like the Chinese do!

More noise! More lights! More people!

More is always better. Right?

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | July 3, 2013 at 4:19 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

SANDAG and other local government agencies will never convince residents of older neighborhoods that new “smart growth” infill redevelopment projects will
reduce sprawl as long as the County is even considering allowing projects like this to be built. Infill without sprawl may be called “smart growth” but continued sprawl combined with infill upzones is just plain stupid growth, driven by
politician’s greed for developer political contributions. If you want more infill development, you have to show that it really will reduce sprawl development. This proposal sends the opposite mesage.

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Avatar for user 'jelula'

jelula | July 4, 2013 at 8:25 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Describing his development as "sustainable, smart growth" doesn't make it so. Note that this in Bill Horne's district, the County Supervisor who has pushed other dense residential development in entirely rural areas as well as proposing a new north-south freeway between I-15 and I-5.

I looked at this area on Google Earth and it is extremely rural at this time. The roads from I-15 are 2-lane (Circle R Dr., W. Lilac Rd.) from Old 395 east. There is already a fair amount of residential development closer to I-15 where Circle R Dr. is relatively straight. I also saw, north of Circle R Dr., several areas where roads have been graded to accommodate more residential development.

I've no doubt that if (heaven forbid) a GP Amendment is approved and permits for the proposed 1742 homes (plus commercial) are granted, the next step will be pressure to widen and straighten the road. In any case, this looks like an area that would rapidly go up in flames in the event of a fire (lots of eucalyptus among other things, especially around the existing housing).

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