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Planning Commission Endorses Housing On Abandoned San Diego Golf Course

Matthew Bowler
A house is seen behind an abandoned golf course in Rancho Penasquitos proposed for new housing, April 29, 2021.

The San Diego Planning Commission on Thursday voted in favor of a plan to build 536 homes on an abandoned golf course in Rancho Peñasquitos.

The project from development firm Lennar sits on 112 acres between I-15 and Peñasquitos Drive. The golf course on the property went out of business in 2015 and has been vacant ever since.

Several nearby residents testified both in support and opposition to the project. Opponents' main concern was that the added population would slow down wildfire evacuations.

Planning Commission Endorses Housing On Abandoned San Diego Golf Course
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

"I would like to live out my life in my home, but not if high-density development puts me in danger because of wildfire risk," said Rancho Peñasquitos resident Judy Piercey. "We need an additional permanent exit out of our community, and this must happen before the plans for the Junipers project are recommended to the City Council."

But another Rancho Peñasquitos resident, Scott Berkebile, said the fire-resistant homes and drought-tolerant landscaping would be less of a fire risk than the dry grass that currently covers the land. He added that Lennar's offsite traffic mitigation measures were an improvement from the status quo.

"I have listened to my neighbors debate subject-matter experts on fire and traffic with their own anecdotal experiences, failing to accept the science behind the recommendations being made for this project," Berkebile said. "No other entity is stepping up to improve the emergency evacuation options in our neighborhood. I appreciate that Lennar is taking this issue very seriously."

RELATED: Rancho Peñasquitos Housing Development Clears City Council

Video: Turing Abandoned Golf Course Into Housing Takes Step Forward

The project, branded "The Junipers," would be a mix of single-family detached homes, condos and an 81-unit affordable housing complex. The 15% share of affordable homes on site exceeds the city's minimum requirements.

The market-rate homes would be for sale while the affordable homes would be for rent. All the homes would be limited to buyers and renters 55 and older — a restriction Lennar attributed to community concerns over impacts to neighborhood schools.

Planning commissioners noted the official analysis showed fire evacuation times would actually get better if the project and offsite improvements are built. And they said the city has an acute need for more "infill" housing when development is surrounded by existing infrastructure.

"We have a crying need for housing, we no longer have a crying need for golf courses," said Commissioner Doug Austin. "I'm convinced this project does not provide a greater fire danger. In fact, I think it helps to mitigate the fire dangers that already exist."

The project is expected to go before the City Council for a final vote in June.