California court rejects sprawl development near San Diego

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SAN DIEGO—Citing wildfires, a judge ruled against a proposed 3,000-unit development for the city of Santee. The Fanita Ranch project would be built on more than 2,600 acres of fire-prone hillsides north of town that serve as habitat for the California coastal gnatcatcher, western toad and other rare species.

The decision found that the city’s environmental review of the project was inadequate. The San Diego Superior Court ruled that the city failed to sufficiently disclose how the development would affect wildfire evacuations and safety in the surrounding community.

“The court understood that in this endless fire season, developers cannot hide from the public the wildfire and community safety risks of a project,” said Peter Broderick, attorney at the Center for Biological. Diversity. “This is absolutely the right decision to protect the people and wildlife that call Santee home. This project should never have been approved, and officials across California must stop letting sprawl increase fire threats.

In 2020, the Center, Preserve Wild Santee, the Endangered Habitats League, and the California Chaparral Institute sued the City of Santee for violating California’s Environmental Quality Act when it approved the development.

“By recognizing the need to protect people from the growing risk of wildfire, the court accomplished something that California political leaders have consistently failed to do – say no to those who would profit by putting families at risk. danger,” said Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute.

“The growing wildfire risks should not be ignored,” said Van Collinsworth of Preserve Wild Santee. “The court’s decision rightly demands that the growing risks be recognized.”

Today’s decision follows a series of recent court rulings blocking development of sprawl challenged by the Center in high fire risk areas. In San Diego, a court rejected the 1,100-home project known as Otay Ranch Village 14 due to wildfire risks, greenhouse gas emissions, wildlife threats and other environmental concerns. Courts have also stopped sprawling developments in Lake and Los Angeles counties.

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