Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 17, 2022


Peter Broderick, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 283-5474 x 421,
Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee, (619) 777-8268,
Richard Halsey, California Chaparral Institute, (760) 822-0029,
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League, (213) 804-2750,

Lawsuit Challenges Risky Project in San Diego County’s Wildfire Zone

Fanita Ranch Plans Ignore Fire Dangers, Lack Safe Evacuation Routes

SANTEE, Calif.— Conservation organizations have filed another lawsuit over the city of Santee’s approval of the Fanita Ranch project. The suit is part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the large-scale development project does not proceed in a wildfire-prone area without the necessary review of wildfire risk.

“California’s affordable housing crisis doesn’t give cities free rein to build unsafe homes in places like Fanita Ranch,” said Peter Broderick, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To prepare for the next disaster, we have to be smarter about where we build, with safety plans that account for the realities of fast-moving fires. Otherwise, we’ll put entire communities in grave danger.”

The court has repeatedly ruled against Fanita Ranch because the city has yet to provide an adequate assessment of how this project would affect fire safety in the community. The development would bring nearly 10,000 new residents to the city’s northern outskirts, a state-designated “very high fire hazard severity zone.” The area has burned 65 times in the last 100 years, including in 2003 when the Cedar Fire burned approximately 95% of the project site.

The San Diego Superior Court earlier this year rejected a near-identical development proposal over the city’s failure to disclose how the development would expose residents and the surrounding community to a significant risk of injury or death from a wildfire. In September the Santee City Council approved the project with a revised environmental review that continued to ignore the realities of building on fire-prone land.

The area is also home to sensitive species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly, California gnatcatcher and Crotch’s bumblebee. The lawsuit noted that the city’s environmental review did not consider how the project would affect the Crotch’s bumblebee, a protected species under the California Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in San Diego Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity, Preserve Wild Santee, California Chaparral Institute and Endangered Habitats League. The lawsuit asserts that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved the project and that the project is inconsistent with the city’s general plan.

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.

Preserve Wild Santee is a volunteer community environmental organization that has worked to protect and enhance the quality of life and preserve natural resources in the City of Santee and adjoining areas since 1994.

The California Chaparral Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational and research organization dedicated to the preservation of the chaparral, helping communities thrive in California's Mediterranean-type climate, and supporting the creative spirit as inspired by nature.

Endangered Habitats League is a Southern California conservation organization dedicated to ecosystem protection and sustainable land use for the benefit of all the region’s inhabitants.

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