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Judge: Santee must overturn 3,000-home project

KPBS staff
A trail in the vicinity of the proposed Fanita Ranch housing development. Santee, Calif. Oct. 10, 2020.

A judge has ordered the Southern California city of Santee to throw out approval of a long-planned housing project, ruling that developers hadn’t adequately considered how new homes could affect potential wildfire evacuations.

The Santee City Council in late 2020 approved the Fanita Ranch project, giving the green light to 3,000 new homes in hills northeast of San Diego.

In her decision, Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal wrote that eight resolutions and ordinances giving approval must be overturned, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday.

The newspaper said the judge expressed concern that the plan didn’t fully address whether thousands of new residents would have time to flee during an emergency like a wildfire.

The project, overseen by HomeFed Fanita Rancho, is not dead, and developers said they would revise the environmental impact report to address the judge’s concerns.

Messages left by the Union-Tribune with the city’s manager and attorney were not immediately returned.

The decision was celebrated by environmental groups that sued to stop the project, arguing that more homes would only increase the risk of fire.