For Immediate Release, May 11, 2020

Contact:

Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223, ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org George Hague, Sierra Club, (951) 313-0395, gbhauge@gmail.com
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081, drewf3@verizon.net

Appeal Challenges Massive Sprawl Project in Rural Riverside County

Villages of Lakeview Threatens Wildlife Refuge, Water Supplies, Air Quality

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society filed a legal appeal today challenging the approval of the Villages of Lakeview, a massive 8,725-unit sprawl development that will threaten the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area and worsen air quality for county residents.

The development will also use 1.5 billion gallons of water per year, but the county refused to even consider the impacts of additional water use on California’s rivers as well as on community members and farms.

“This development is the epitome of irresponsible, environmentally destructive sprawl,” said Ileene Anderson, a Center scientist. “County officials rubber-stamped this boondoggle without disclosing its true cost to wildlife and the community.”

The development is located far from existing jobs, requiring residents to collectively drive half a billion miles per year. This will further contaminate the community’s air, which already receives “F” ratings from the American Lung Association because it is dangerously unhealthy.

“This ill-conceived sprawl project is a nightmare for local wildlife and will endanger county residents by further degrading our air quality while undermining California’s climate goals,” said George Hague of the Sierra Club’s San Gorgonio Chapter.

The proposal includes large-scale industrial development next to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, a haven for rare wildlife, hikers and photographers. The development would bulldoze habitat for imperiled species including burrowing owls, Swainson’s hawks, tricolored blackbirds, willow flycatchers and Stephens’ kangaroo rats.

“The San Jacinto Wildlife Area is a critical local resource paid for by taxpayers so wildlife have a home and people can access to nature,” said Drew Feldmann of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “It’s mindboggling that county officials would jeopardize this community resource to appease speculative developers.”

The Center and allies successfully challenged the development in 2012, when a judge blocked the project because of its environmental impacts. The county reapproved the project in 2017 by a 3-2 vote, over the objections of local residents.

Today’s appeal comes after a Riverside Superior Court Judge Raquel Marquez ruled that the development’s environmental review complied with the California Environmental Quality Act. The appeal was filed in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation.

The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society for almost all of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties focused on the protection of natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, and public education about the environment.