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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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.
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.
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:
-- The 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/
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?
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!
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.
One major problem is a bought and paid for politician, Bill Horn. A prime example of what so wrong about American politics in general.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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?
@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/
@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?
@Frank Landis It's funny how cities force developers to add parking, and then we wonder why there are traffic issues.
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.
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.
Mr. Passons: Agreed. Similarly I am hoping the City of San Diego sticks to its guns vis-a-vis AirBNB.
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
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
"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.
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.
@moleman Your assumptions are wrong and your determination of what is probable isn't worth spit.