For Immediate Release, March 29, 2023
J.P. Rose, Center for Biological Diversity, (408) 497-7675, email@example.com
California Court Blocks Massive Sprawl Development in Riverside County
Villages of Lakeview Approved Without Adequate Study on Water, Mitigation
RIVERSIDE, Calif.— A California appeals court has ordered Riverside County to set aside its approval of an 8,725-unit development because its environmental review of the project was inadequate. Thursday’s ruling from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two said the county had approved Villages of Lakeview without analyzing water supply impacts or providing a workable plan to offset damage to the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area.
“This ruling reminds us why California’s environmental protections are so critical to helping us make smarter land-use decisions and avoid irresponsible sprawl,” said J.P. Rose, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A wet winter in California doesn’t mean we can ignore the potential harm to wildlife and existing communities from supplying water to a new 2,800-acre development.”
The proposed development near the San Jacinto Wildlife Area would use 1.5 billion gallons of water per year but the county failed to study the impacts of this usage on wildlife, rivers and nearby communities. The project would pave over habitat for sensitive species including burrowing owls, Swainson’s hawks, tricolored blackbirds, willow flycatchers and Stephens’ kangaroo rats.
“The court recognizes that the San Jacinto Wildlife Area is a true gem and it’s very worth protecting the almost $100 million of public funds we have invested for its amazing biological value,” said George Hague, conservation chair of the Moreno Valley Group of the Sierra Club. “There aren’t many wildlife refuges left in California so plans to develop the nearby areas should be considered with utmost care.”
“There are several reasons why this development concerns us, but the basic reason is simple: location, location, location,” said Drew Feldmann of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “The Villages of Lakeview development will be immediately adjacent to the most important area for birds in inland Southern California, and we need a buffer zone of undeveloped land around it to keep the San Jacinto Wildlife Area hospitable for birds.”
For years the Center, Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society have challenged this damaging project. Last week’s ruling was in response to the coalition’s appeal of a Riverside Superior Court decision that determined the development’s environmental review had complied with the California Environmental Quality Act.
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 one of the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organizations in the U.S., with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.
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.