SAN DIEGO— In a 4-to-1 vote on Wednesday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a massive new sprawl development in the county’s ecologically rich Proctor Valley. The Otay Ranch Village 13 project will bring thousands of new residents to a wildfire-prone area that is home to endangered and threatened wildlife species.
“San Diego County officials apparently learned no lessons from the disastrous fires that burned millions of acres in California this summer,” said Peter Broderick, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Approving new developments in highly wildfire-prone areas not only puts new residents at risk, it also endangers nearby communities. Everybody living in the area will face increased fire risk, and thousands more cars will clog the roads when the inevitable evacuation call comes.”
Today’s vote amended the county’s general plan to allow construction of more than 1,900 single-family homes and commercial buildings on an undeveloped 1,869-acre site in the remote southwestern portion of the county.
The project site contains some of the best remaining habitat for the critically endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly, as well as habitat for protected species like the Golden Eagle, California Coastal gnatcatcher, burrowing owl and San Diego fairy shrimp. The new car-focused development would also result in dramatic increases in San Diego County’s greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the state is pushing to achieve significant pollution reductions.
The project’s location in a high-wildfire zone has drawn criticism from the state’s attorney general. In a letter last week, Attorney General Xavier Becerra urged the county to deny project approval, citing “critical flaws” in the county’s analysis of the increased risk of wildfire the project will create in the region.
Three of the four supervisors who approved the project are outgoing and will be replaced in January.
“One of the last acts of these departing board members on their way out the door was to approve yet more terrible sprawl that San Diegans will be dealing with for generations to come,” said Van Collinsworth with Preserve Wild Santee. “We hope that the new board members will listen to their constituents, not just developers.”
The Center for Biological Diversity and Preserve Wild Santee repeatedly raised concerns about the development during the administrative process and urged the county to deny the approval based on its wildfire risks, massive greenhouse gas emissions, and impacts to habitat and threatened and endangered species.
Numerous county residents, neighborhood groups and other conservation organizations also expressed strong opposition to the project. The public now has approximately 30 days to file litigation challenging the county’s environmental review of the project.