It’s easy to miss Shirey Road.

It’s a small dirt turnoff through the avocado and citrus farms nestled in the rolling hills of Valley Center, a rural town in northeastern San Diego County. The road leads to the home where Fernando Hernandez and Josie Ferrer grew up and still live with their retired parents.

County officials will soon decide whether to replace the 600 acres of farm land surrounding their house with 1,700 homes, retail and other buildings in an ambitious development called Lilac Hills Ranch.

The Hernandez home sits just above a bone-dry depression where the nearby hills converge.

Josie and Fernando say it’s always been dry except when it rains, which is rare. For all the tree-climbing and fort-building they did as children, they never could build dams or search for tadpoles there.

“If there’s no water, it’s not a creek,” said Hernandez, now a truck driver who stays at his parents’ home between long hauls. “There was water when it rained, because there’s nowhere else it could go. That’s it.”


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Accretive Investments, the developer of Lilac Hills Ranch, is suing the family over the dry creek.

Accretive has either purchased or signed development agreements with nearly all of the Hernandezes’ neighbors. In March 2014, the company filed a lawsuit alleging the Hernandezes had a leaky septic tank that polluted the creek.

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
About a year after Accretive Investments tried to strike a deal with the Hernandez family for their rights to Shirey Road, the company sued the family over what it says is a leaky septic tank polluting a creek bed. The family says the dry dirt isn't a creek at all.

That wasn’t first time the family had heard from Accretive.

A year earlier, the company’s vice president, Jon Rilling, visited the Hernandezes and asked them to turn over rights to Shirey Road. Accretive would demolish the section of road the Hernandezes own and use it to build a new one that winds through the development and links it to the highway. In spring 2013, Rilling brought the Hernandez family a contract to sign.

The family declined. A year later, the lawsuit arrived in the mail.

“This is bullying,” Ferrer said. “They say, if you cry uncle and give us the road, we’ll leave you alone.”

“Don’t we have a right to say ‘no’?” Hernandez asked.

County officials and a fire district said no. But the developer behind Lilac Hills has found ways around that.

Others have wondered the same thing – including the former director of the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use, who rejected the project, and the local fire district, which spent years saying it couldn’t provide adequate emergency response to the nearly 5,000 people who will call Lilac Hills home.

Accretive had an answer for both. It appealed the planning department decision to the next wrung up the ladder, the county Planning Commission, which overturned the rejection.

The company pumped thousands into a local fire district election, dwarfing typical spending for those races. It’s been allowed to move forward.

County Supervisor Bill Horn, who represents the area and owns 34 acres nearby, was also buoyed by an infusion of Accretive cash in his most recent re-election campaign. The company donated $40,000 to a political action committee that supported Horn, as part of more than $100,000 the company has spent on local elections since it started pushing the project. Accretive also hired a former Horn staffer as its lobbyist.

Legal experts say Horn may have a conflict of interest that could force him to recuse himself from votes concerning the project. Building the massive residential community could dramatically improve the development prospects of his property.

approved (1)Lilac Hills is the first in a line of more than a dozen projects seeking approval from the Board of Supervisors because they don’t comply with the county’s blueprint for growth. The county spent 13 years and roughly $18.2 million rewriting that plan, which was approved in 2011. Just four years after the supervisors approved it, they could OK Lilac Hills Ranch.

But as county officials get ready to start public hearings on the project, Accretive’s executives are confident.

“It’s going to be approved,” said Randy Goodson, Accretive CEO. “There’s no project like this in North County.”

Nearly Rejected Outright

Accretive started buying up property for Lilac Hills back in 2005.

Goodson said he chose the location for its gentle hills and proximity to I-15, and because it wasn’t part of identified conservation areas.

He even met with the Endangered Habitats League, a local environmental group, which said he’d be fine if he stayed out of species preservation land. The group still opposed the project.

“That’s when I said, ‘You’re opposed to everything,’” Goodson said. “I did exactly what you asked.”

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Randy Goodson is CEO of Accretive, the developer planning Lilac Hills Ranch.

Dan Silver, CEO of the Endangered Habitats League, has a different recollection.

“They have consulted with us,” he said. “They don’t want to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

In 2009, county planners told the developers “no” as well.

Approving Accretive’s project requires amending the county’s plan for future growth, called its general plan. The Department of Planning and Land Use was already writing a new long-term growth plan in 2009, and said Lilac Hills neither fit the basic guidelines of the existing plan, nor the new one in the works.

“The proposed project is not consistent with guiding principles of the general plan update,” planning staff wrote, because it “would locate new development outside the Valley Center village area within a rural, agricultural area without existing infrastructure, services and jobs.”

Accretive appealed to the countywide Planning Commission, which overruled the decision, allowing the project to move forward. Since then, county staff has repeatedly identified areas in which the project is inconsistent with county priorities.

The regional planning agency, SANDAG, formally asked the county to weigh the project against its plan, which – SANDAG reminded – aims to focus growth on the coast, away from backcountry areas.

But county planners issued their final recommendation last month, and said Lilac Hills should be approved. The project hasn’t undergone any substantive changes, but staff now says the issues it highlighted a few years ago are no longer issues that should keep the project from being built.

LilacHills_081316_bythenumbers

 

“I find it disconcerting that someone in the planning department isn’t going, ‘Wait a minute. No matter how their consultants want to spin this, we can’t get past what this project really is,’” said Eric Gibson, the former director of the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use who rejected the project and was overruled. “How can you possibly say this complies?”

disconcertingInterviews with current and former county staffers familiar with the project reinforced Gibson’s sentiment that the project isn’t aligned with county planning priorities. They declined to speak on the record because they still work in the industry.

Being away from conservation areas isn’t the only reason Accretive chose to build Lilac Hills where it did. The land came cheap.

Properties are only worth what can be built on them. When Accretive started buying and signing development options on the Lilac Hills property, it was cheap because it had limited development options. Then they entered into a lengthy political process to lift those restrictions.

“From the developer’s point of view, the bottom line was that the land was inexpensive there,” Gibson said.

In Case of Fire

Developers, county staff and representatives of a local fire district have spent years haggling over how to ensure Lilac Hills residents would be protected in case of an emergency. Their final decision was just to figure it out later.

Deer Springs Fire District officials raised a red flag on Lilac Hills early. Emergency responders wouldn’t be able to reach all its residents within five minutes, a countywide requirement.

The area is also highly prone to wildfires.

A fire in a closed room can ignite the whole home in 10 minutes, so firefighters seek to put them out in under eight minutes, said Ken Willette from the National Fire Protection Association. In compact developments like Lilac Hills, it’s especially easy for fires to spread. That’s why standards like the five-minute rule exist.

Developers and county officials looked into numerous solutions over the years – some were unacceptable to the district, others to Accretive. The county has decided it can approve the project now, and Accretive can get started building, but it’ll need to figure out a solution before it begins later phases of construction.

The district needs a new station for the area, but can’t afford to pay for it on its own. Lilac Hills Ranch wouldn’t generate enough tax revenue to operate the station until the whole development is finished – 10 years down the road.

Rilling said the company won’t offer any more money to the fire district. It’s already handing over $2 million in upfront fees and future residents will eventually provide another $1 million in annual tax revenue once they’re all moved in.

“It’s been difficult to negotiate with them when they don’t have an incentive to negotiate,” said former Deer Springs Fire Chief Chris Amestoy, who left the district in July. “If I had to characterize how they interacted with us, I would say they seemed disinterested.”

Voice of San Diego obtained through a public records request handwritten notes by an unidentified county staffer from a spring 2014 meeting with fire district officials. The notes emphasize how the response time issue could be solved. A year later, Accretive and the district still haven’t agreed to that solution, but county planners have nonetheless paved the way for supervisors to approve the project.

The solution, the staffer wrote, was for Accretive to put up more money to fund station operations.

Watching the discussion turn circular, the staffer grew exasperated.

“Service issue has come full circle and (is) back at beginning!!” the staffer wrote. “Solution is for developer to provide funding gap without taxing future residents.”

But Accretive did show interest in funding Deer Springs Fire District in other ways.

For the November 2014 election, the developers poured $58,800 into the three open spots on the five-person Deer Springs Fire Board, through a political action committee, Public Safety Advocates. Among the committee’s spending on local elections was $12,370 in support of Fire Board candidates Tom Francl, Robert Osby and Jean Slaughter. All three were elected.

In that one fire board race, the committee spent almost the same amount as the 54 candidates in all fire board elections in San Diego County that year, according to campaign disclosures. Together, all the candidates, including those in Deer Springs, raised a combined $13,166.

The two losing candidates, James Gordon and Mark Jackson, are vocal opponents of the Lilac Hills project. They didn’t receive any financial help from the PAC.

A more sympathetic fire board has the authority to green-light a new station. Since joining the board, Francl – who said Accretive never told him it was supporting him in the election – has taken the lead on finding a solution.

He’s pushing to build a joint station for both the local fire district and CALFIRE, a state agency. Staffing expenses would be handled by setting up a special Community Facilities District to charge residents an extra tax to pay for services, including fire protection.

That idea’s been floated in the past, and it didn’t solve the impasse.

The Powerful Neighbor

“NO HORN,” reads a sign down the road from the planned Lilac Hills area.

Carole Sullivan put up the sign, because she really dislikes one of her neighbors, Supervisor Bill Horn.

His large home sits on the top of a large hill in the center of 34 acres he owns near the Lilac Hills site.

Sullivan, who opposes the Lilac Hills project, thinks Horn shouldn’t be allowed to vote on it, given how close he lives.

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission outlines when officials should abstain from votes related to property they own. It sets a series of gray lines, recognizing that every situation is slightly different. It all comes down to whether the decision would have a “reasonably foreseeable material financial effect” on the official, one that’s separate from whatever benefit the community as a whole would receive.

If Horn wanted to, he could today develop his property into between four and 17 separate homes. But if Accretive transforms the area by putting nearly 5,000 residents in 1,700 new homes – and spends millions on new infrastructure for the area in the process – Horn’s property could suddenly become a much easier sell for increased development.

Lilac Hills could substantially increase the value of his property, because of the infrastructure improvements that would come with it, and the way it would turn the area into a developed residential community.

“There’s definitely something there, in the way he could potentially personally benefit from his vote,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola School of Law in Los Angeles and vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. “It’s difficult to come down with an absolute yes or an absolute no, because there is a potential for him to benefit, but it’s so far down the line.”

benefitThe state’s guidelines on these matters are intentionally vague to encourage officials to seek guidance on their specific issue, according to FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga.

“We’d obviously much rather have people ask us for advice ahead of time than have to begin an Enforcement Division investigation, which could lead to substantial fines and penalties,” he said.

Horn’s office hasn’t sought guidance from the FPPC. His office didn’t respond to multiple opportunities to comment.

That’s not Horn’s only relationship to Lilac Hills and Accretive.

His former staffer, Chris Brown, is the company’s primary lobbyist for Lilac Hills. Brown, who left Horn’s office in 2002, lobbies in favor of many large developments in the county.

Horn’s recent political campaigns, which he’s won by relatively wide margins, have pulled in big contributions from Accretive, and county developers in general.

Accretive executives and their spouses each donated the maximum amount allowed to his 2008 campaign, totaling $2,500.

The company has made much larger donations to political action committees supporting Horn.

In Horn’s 2014 re-election bid, the company gave $37,000 combined to two political action committees, the Deputy Sherriff’s Association of San Diego County and Public Safety Advocates, which spent a total of $114,498 in support of Horn.

The company also gave $10,000 to a PAC supporting County Supervisor Ron Roberts in his 2010 re-election campaign and executives gave $1,700 to Roberts directly. Accretive gave $10,000 to a PAC supporting Steve Danon, an unsuccessful challenger to Supervisor Dave Roberts. Executives also donated $700 to Supervisor Greg Cox back in 2007.

Accretive said it has been donating to these PACs for years.

Its contributions are “not connected with any individual race, but overall support for the type of good government that the [Deputy Sheriff’s Association] has fought for throughout the County,” said Accretive officials in an e-mail.

The Crucial Interpretation

Developers have every right to ask for changes to specific restrictions on their property. But before county or city officials can grant those changes, they must explain how the project in question is broadly consistent with the priorities spelled out in big-picture planning documents.

Accretive needs a change because the land it owns is pegged for agricultural use that allows them to build just 110 homes. It needs county approval to change those restrictions so it can build their 1,700-home project.

There’s one specific policy in the county’s plans making it tough to justify the changes Accretive wants.

The county’s general plan outlaws so-called “leapfrog development,” or building new communities that are far away from existing homes, jobs and infrastructure. The idea is to steer growth toward already developed areas in order to preserve the undeveloped ones.

There’s one exception: The county can let a leapfrog project through if it meets a special environmental certification based on its location.

When the county adopted its general plan, though, Supervisor Ron Roberts made a last-minute change, allowing for an undefined “equivalent” certification for the location-based standard. It passed unanimously.

Environmental and community groups welcomed the tweak, thinking they’d still gotten their way.

But Gibson, the former Department of Planning and Land Use director, saw a problem right away.

“I remember seeing this … language and thinking, ‘Wow, there’s a battle coming,’” he said.

Lilac Hills has become the battle’s front line.

The project can’t meet the original standard for having an environmentally responsible location. County staff introduced what it will use as the “equivalent” standard, one written by a subsidiary of the National Association of Homebuilders, a developer trade organization. Lilac Hills meets the new standard.

At an August hearing on the project, some planning commissioners expressed doubt over the county’s decision to consider this equivalent to the county’s original standard.

“You can build this in Death Valley. You can build it in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can build it on Mars, wherever it is, regardless of size or location, and it would be available and applicable to this standard,” said Planning Commissioner Peder Norby.

If the project is approved, this standard is what opponents will seize on to challenge it in court. A lawyer for the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, an environmental group that successfully challenged SANDAG’s long-term transportation plan, already submitted a letter saying such an interpretation of the general plan would violate state law. Three other lawyers also submitted letters opposing the project, laying the foundation to challenge it if approved.

Almost 100 people came to speak about Lilac Hills during the August Planning Commission meeting. In a July meeting, Commission Chair Bryan Woods said Lilac Hills Ranch would be the biggest project they would hear in the next five years. Commissioner Michael Beck called the project “precedent-setting.”

The commissioners will likely decide whether to recommend the project to the Board of Supervisors at their next meeting on Sept. 11. Then the project will go to the Board of Supervisors, which has the ultimate decision on whether to approve Lilac Hills – unless there’s a lawsuit.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the county general plan was approved unanimously. It was approved on a 4-to-1 vote.

    This article relates to: Corrections, Growth and Housing, Land Use, Lilac Hills Ranch, Must Reads, San Diego County Government

    Written by Andrew Keatts and Maya Srikrishnan

    Andrew Keatts is a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact him at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529. Maya Srikrishnan is a reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at maya.srikrishnan@voiceofsandiego.org.

    26 comments
    Curtis Moore
    Curtis Moore

    Wow all the negativity - Destroy, Bad name, Sense of entitlement, etc, etc. I know many many "individuals" living in the county have the classic "don't move my cheese" mentality. I'm here and your not so build a wall, as Donald Trump would say, around my community and not let anything change. But please  wait a minute and look at this or any other well planned development in a different way. Have you read SANDAQ's traffic plan for the next 25 years? Let's face it folks San Diego county is going to grow in population and no special interest anti-growth group or CEQA ruling is going to change that. Stop for a moment and consider the results of no growth in our County. Do you realize that my kids and yours will want to buy a house in America's Finest City one day but due to restricted supply the average 3br 2ba house in SD now costs $1.2MM! Don't laugh folks it can happen. Look a SF as a good example. No young average family in SF can touch buying a home that area.


    Development is going to happen. It's needed for our future growth and maturity. So perhaps the better arguments to be made is that development is planned and implemented in the best way possible. 

    Rokky
    Rokky subscriber

    I'm a native San Diegan and I have watched the developers destroy most of North County, South Bay, Mission Valley, and downtown San Diego just to mention a few.

    Next it will be the east county and we will not only be a suburb of LA, but also of El Centro.

    The county leaders are out of control and they have just about made the General Plan Update that took many years and a lot of dollars to complete a worthless document.

    The Voice of San Diego does a Great job of covering these stories, but it will take the Voice of the People to make a difference.

    Attend Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings and make Your Voice Heard.

    The madness must stop or we won't have a San Diego County worth living in.


    chris Schmidt
    chris Schmidt

      Great article! Thank you!
    As an architect trained in Germany I can only marvel about the ancient approach to development prevalent in San Diego County. Already when I was studying in the 80ies !!! this kind of development was not permitted any more. Germany has strict laws that allows only farmers to built in rural areas, especially in high density and economically growing areas e.g. around Munich in the south of Germany. Americans love the city and uncluttered rural landscape around!!!
    To allow for long term prosperity there are ways to develop that benefit everyone. Just to mention a few:
    -- Th
    e General Plan is to be followed !!!

    -- the cities and counties (the people), NOT the DEVELOPERS !!! decide where new development is allowed.

    -- No building in rural areas. Exceptions only for farmers and for very special reasons, each of which have to be reviewed.
    -- increasing density in existing areas is the way to go. US studies show that the dream of the own home is beginning to fade. Younger generations prefer apartments, saving lots ofmaintenance
    / yard work  time
    -- This allows for saving BIG green areas in their natural condition, rather then designating leftover pieces between developments as 'parks'.
    -- Supplying public transportation that will allow people to leave their car at home. - More people does NOT have to mean traffic jams and all over!

    to oppose projects like this one, visit:   http://saveoursdcountryside.org/

    Jeff Toister
    Jeff Toister subscriber

    Does anyone have a list of the groups that have organized opposition to this project? It sounds like the Cleveland National Forest Foundation is one. Any others?

    CATRYNA WHITE
    CATRYNA WHITE

    This area cannot support 1700 more homes. There is a water shortage, for god's sake, not to mention a dozen other reasons to not ever do this!

    Phillip Schwartze
    Phillip Schwartze

    I am a Land Planner and Developer in Southern California and have been for 30 years. This particular project and developer are the type of project and development that give developers a bad name.


    I have been involved in dozens of large scale residential development projects. Without question this project is the most ill conceived project I have seen in my career. The complete disregard for the land and the infrastructure is a text book case of what not to do on the land but what to do in the political world.


    This is a political science case not a development project.


    Approval of this project gives developers a black eye and convinces the citizens that the General Plan is just paper.



    Ducraker
    Ducraker subscriber

    One major problem is a bought and paid for politician, Bill Horn. A prime example of what so wrong about American politics in general.

    Mike Casey
    Mike Casey

    Thanks for the very informative article. As a resident of Fallbrook who enjoys my rural (or at least semi-rural) neighborhood, and also has to deal with crazy drivers and traffic on I15 on a regular basis, the Lilac Hills development is more than a little disturbing to me. With the widening of SR76 and the new Palomar Campus, along with other planned developments on the I15 corridor, the character of our area is already changing too quickly.


    Even more disturbing, though maybe not surprising, is what it says about how our county government works. $37,000 here, $10,000 there, $1,700 to another place, electing three candidates to the Fire District, a Supervisor who stands to profit if the development is built, and on and on, with the cynical assumption that approval over the General Plan and all objections could eventually be bought. If this development could qualify on its merits they shouldn't need to line any politicians' pockets. But...I guess they want to make sure they cover all the bases. Really disgusting.

    George Courser
    George Courser subscriber

    Accolades to Keatts & Srikrishnan for this comprehensive overview. The project's complexity disintegrated in the opening lines concerning the Hernandez family battle with ruthless developers. Unfortunately,  

    these brutal circumstances speak to the exact circumstances Don Wood describes below.


    County Planning and Development Services management has all but abandoned the County General Plan Update of 2011. Instead of requiring General plan conformance they've been seduced by developer schemes for "empire building"; losing all sense of planning purpose along the way. 


    There are now 12 additional non-conforming projects betting on the flood gates of growth to be slammed open by Lilac Hills Ranch. Taxpayers will be subject to a speculator's orgy of converted farmlands and daily traffic impacts likened to impacts of the Del Mar Fair.


    Yet this can be stopped: The first step is for actual citizens to voice their concerns in writing to the County Planning Commission. The next Commission hearing is easy to remember...9-11-15.      

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    San Diego developers have an incredible sense of entitlement. I remember a developer who used to build hotels on public tidelands property managed by the San Diego Unified Port District. A port commissioner once told me that the developer would call the commissioners at their homes at midnight and threaten to file lawsuits against them if they didn't vote to approve the developer's projects. So I'm never surprised to hear what kind of aggressive tactics local real estate developers are willing to stoop to. Don't be surprised if this one ends up either bribing or threatening members of the planning commission and the board of supervisors.  As the big Mexican cartel leaders used to say "Either you accept my gold or you'll have to accept my lead.". Don't ever be surprised at what San Diego developers will do to get their property upzoned or exempted in order to move forward with their proposed projects. Underneath its the sunny façade, San Diego is home to some really evil activities. Always has been.

    Frank Landis
    Frank Landis subscriber

    Thanks.  I was at the last County planning commission meeting.  One of the details that really bothered me about this development was that they want to put a 500 person retirement community at the south end, and this development would include a 200 bed extended care facility for people with alzheimers and other issues (like dementia, advanced Parkinson's, and so on).  There's one road in and out of that area, and it's little more than a steep, twisty driveway.  The local residents showed how even a single large truck entirely blocks the road on one curve.  This access road is privately owned, and there's another legal battle shaping up over what will happen to it and the properties that line it.


    Now I have an elderly relative living in such a facility.  I know how much work it takes to get him anywhere, even for a routine doctor's appointment. He's in a small facility, but evacuating him and the others would take hours, because the place does not have enough vehicles to take them to safety.


    Looking at Lilac Hill Ranch, I'm trying to imagine how they're going to evacuate those 500 seniors, especially the 200 who are seriously disabled, in case of a fire or other emergency.  They'll have a few hours to do it, at best one staffer for every four patients, almost certainly not enough vehicles on site to fit everyone, and a road that, even if it is rebuilt, will have trouble taking large buses.


    This design is a disaster waiting to happen.


    Yes, we need more appropriate housing and treatment facilities to handle the aging baby boomers.  However, these facilities should not be located in high fire danger areas.  It's not fair and it's not safe to concentrate our elders in places where they may be asked to evacuate quickly, especially when the local roads and infrastructure won't allow them to do so.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Frank Landis Maybe the county should require that Lilac Hills be built with stringent fire standards in order to be a shelter-in-place community. Remember how the Witch Creek Fire swept through 4S Ranch and didn't burn down a single structure?

    Frank Landis
    Frank Landis subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Frank Landis That's the logical solution, isn't it?  The problem is smoke, and the fact that elderly patients are fragile and often have poorly functioning immune systems.  The facility would have to be rigidly landscaped with fire-safe landscaping, rigidly built to not catch embers, and have an amazingly good air filter powered by a backup generator with lots of fuel for this to work. 

    Now this isn't impossible.  Unfortunately, during the last big blackout a few years ago, IIRC, half of Sharp Memorial's backup generators failed (this is hearsay), because they hadn't been regularly tested.  If you're going to shelter in place, you've got to make sure everything works or you're dead.  Based on what I've seen, I'd say that the nursing staff at a long-term care facility are not the kind of people I'd expect to be prepared for an emergency where they'd have to weather a fire with their patients.  This isn't an insult, because there are a lot of good people working in such places.  It's just not their skill-set, and it's not something that's normally on their radar, given the routine crises they have to shepherd their patients through.

    Even more unfortunately, the Lilac Hills Ranch developer showed mockups of their proposed homes.  They were not fire-safe landscaped at all.  While the buildings were to code, they were shown with conifers and palms right under the eaves, where a blazing plant would burn the house down.  One of the stories I heard at the Planning Commission meeting (talking to a member of another local county planning group) was that a Cal Fire chief had said that the Lilac Hills Ranch fire protection plan fully complied with existing law, and was a tragedy waiting to happen. 

    Incidentally, you can read more about fire-safe landscaping at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/landscaping/

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Frank Landis And if the developer decides it isn't worth the cost to build the community to shelter-in-place standards, then it wouldn't get built at all. At least it gives the developer a choice, and freedom is a good thing, right?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Frank Landis It's funny how cities force developers to add parking, and then we wonder why there are traffic issues.

    Frank Landis
    Frank Landis subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann 

    If I believed that would happen, I would go with it.

    In this case, the developer already says that his development has passed full fire review, and indeed it has.  It's fully complies with County fire standards, and by law, they don't have to do anything else, even if it would save lives.  That it could easily end up killing a lot of people just says about how inadequate those standards are, and clueless we are about dealing with fire issues, or any emergency for that matter.  Unfortunately, developers and the people who finance them don't get publicly horsewhipped in the ashes of their badly designed housing developments.  That's about the only thing that would stop this kind of building at this point (sorry for the violent imagery, but we rarely punish the people responsible for so many preventable tragedies, and it gets frustrating). 

    I should point out that it's not just fire.  There are water issues, traffic issues, and not least, what happens if this gets passed and the 40 other developments lined up for the back country realize that this is the way they can get themselves approved. 

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    Thanks for this.  I couldn't possibly take the time to digest all the information you had to sift through.  Perhaps most importantly, it brings into focus a bit of a nuanced point: the tension between property rights generally and specific examples of consistent rule application.  On the one hand, a person/entity that owns property ought to be able to do whatever the law allows.  On the other, you can't credibly claim your property rights are being harmed if you bought the property with knowledge that you'd need an exception to the rules to get the highest and best use of the property.  It's a perfect example of how a politician who generally favors letting people/entities build to the limits of their property rights could nevertheless oppose this project since it does not appear to conform to the rules that existed when then bought the property at a discount.


    As a planning matter, I hope the County sticks to its guns - and its role in helping make sure our county grows in an economically and environmentally responsible way over the next 30 years.  Fighting sprawl in this case is smart because the county cannot afford the costs of that sprawl in increased fire and water requirements.  It also makes sense to focus building near job centers or existing cities to ensure that if the County were to ever take up building some transit that it can do so for 5-10 miles rather than 40-50. Despite being generally leery of government overreach, I think holding the line on this thing seems to be the right call.  Nice reporting. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Passons: Agreed. Similarly I am hoping the City of San Diego sticks to its guns vis-a-vis AirBNB.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    I assume you mean you'd like the city to stick to its interpretation that any rental or home exchange or foreign exchange stay for less than 30 days is illegal in a single family residential zone without a $5-10,000 permit. I've always found it odd to hear people advocate for an interpretation that doesn't follow from the language of the code. How one a one night rental, once a year or a foreign exchange student or a home swap could possibly meet the definition of a visitor accommodation is strange to me. Anyway, it's out of the scope of this piece, but seems like a strange perspective to me

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Passons: That's one way of putting it; but more specifically I am suggesting a certain degree of hypocrisy here. The subject of this story is in large part one of quality of life of neighboring residents of the area being impacted by a use that pushes or exceeds the boundaries of existing codes. I agree with your view that the County should uphold its existing codes in this instance. However, in my view you are advocating an approach to the AirBNB issue that has been found to violate existing zoning laws in San Diego at the expense of the qualify of life of neighbors. http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Woman-Ordered-to-Pay-15K-for-AirBnB-Hosting-Without-Permit-321699962.html

    Richard Gardiol
    Richard Gardiol

    "Developers have every right to ask for changes to specific restrictions on their property. But before county or city officials can grant those changes, they must explain how the project in question is broadly consistent with the priorities spelled out in big-picture planning documents."

    Of course that did not apply when San Diego Development Services unilaterally decided to ignore the Municipal Code's zoning regulations and big-picture planning; and authorized the placement of an industrial style microbrewery, generating industrial levels of noise and air pollution, in the midst of my residential North Park neighborhood without notice, hearing or appeal. San Diego Development Services placed a higher value on the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages than the civil and property rights of citizens when they issued the use permit, and are now refusing to take responsibility for policing it's operation.

    Thanks to Todd Gloria and his appointee SDDS Director Robert A Vacchi , San Diego is becoming an unaccountable dictatorship of bureaucrats; and is doing so right under the noses of Mayor Faulconer and the City Coucil. VOSD should maybe do a little investigation.

    moleman
    moleman subscriber

    I am assuming you are talking about Hess or Thorn St. Both are cool places and you should quit your NIMBY whining... You probably weren't complaining when hipsters and restaurants and bars started moving in and raising your property value.

    Richard Gardiol
    Richard Gardiol

    @moleman Your assumptions are wrong and your determination of what is probable isn't worth spit.

    moleman
    moleman subscriber

    @Richard Gardiol @moleman I stand by it.  North Park was pretty shabby until people started wanting to hang out there.  Part of that is neighborhood breweries.  Get over it.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Robert Osby is a former (retired) fire chief for the City of San Diego.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    We ooze just like Horn does.

    Signed,

    Secretion Investments