Lilac Hills Ranch – a suburban sprawl project of 1,700 homes in the hills of Valley Center—might finally be dead. At least for now.
Supporters of the plan filed a lawsuit last year against opponents of the measure, alleging a statement against the development that appeared on the November ballot about the project was misleading. The two sides settled the suit this week for an undisclosed amount, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported .
It was a long time coming.
Accretive Investments, Lilac Hills’ developers, started buying up property for the project in 2005. That was the start of a lengthy process, where the developers never heard a “no” they took seriously, as Maya Srikrishnan and I covered in an investigation  nearly two years ago.
But the noes kept piling up.
The project nearly died in 2009, when the county’s planning director said the proposal didn’t follow the county’s general plan to concentrate new housing in already-developed areas. Accretive successfully appealed that decision to the Planning Commission, though, and got to carry on. The planning director, since fired, maintained even still that the project contradicted the county’s own growth and development aims.
But that was far from Lilac Hills’ only problem. In 2015, following our investigation, a state watchdog ruled County Supervisor Bill Horn needed to recuse himself from voting on the project, since he owned acres of developable property nearby that would increase in value if the project was approved. Horn had plenty of other connections to Accretive, too.
With Horn out, the developers decided to go to the ballot to get the project approved.
The vote was the firmest “no”  that Accretive has received yet: 63 percent of San Diego voters rejected the plan.
• Speaking of Horn, the long-time supervisor delivered his annual State of North County address this week. KPBS reporter Alison St. John found significance in the site of Horn’s address  – he delivered it in San Marcos, where Republican Mayor Jim Desmond has “thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Horn.” Horn will be termed out of office in 2018 after a long career on the board. Some of the people voting on his successor weren’t even born when he was first elected in 1994. The county passed term limits for the board in 2010. That 2018 race could also include Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern (a Republican) and Oceanside City Councilwoman Esther Sanchez (a Democrat).
North County Transit Woes
The North County Transit District is holding seven open houses this month to discuss some bad news for anyone who depends on its bus, Sprinter and Coaster services to get around: facing falling ridership, the agency intends to drastically cut service. The district could cut between 13 percent and 32 percent of its bus routes. (KPBS )
The news is a bit better for the North County out of SANDAG, the countywide agency that funds and plans regional transportation projects.
The agency’s next budget includes funding to study how it might relocate railroad tracks from coastal bluffs in Del Mar, as the Coast News Group reported this week .
As the news group reported, the tracks there are an issue not only because the fragile bluffs could collapse, destroying the railway. But there’s been a rash of deaths – roughly one per month, according to Coast News – from pedestrians illegally crossing the tracks. In Del Mar, there’s just one legal crossing. The lack of crossings tempts pedestrians to accept danger.
More News from Del Mar
Del Mar is getting closer to forming its own police department, after the city found doing so would improve safety and save money. (San Diego Union-Tribune )
Del Mar, the smallest city in the county, contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for police services instead of providing its own force. Encinitas, Lemon Grove, Imperial Beach, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista do the same.
Closing out the Del Mar news this week: the city’s sales tax increase approved by voters in November went into effect this week. (Coast News Group )
The city raised taxes by 1 percent, but the state sales tax fell by a quarter of a percent at the same time. Shoppers in the area will incur an $8.75 tax on every $100 they spend, instead of the $9 voters expected.
Poway Development Plan Moves Along – Kind Of
Poway has spent two years studying a plan to remake a stretch of Poway Road to create a walkable, downtown-y vibe.
The City Council took another look at the plan this week, as San Diego Union-Tribune reporter J. Harry Jones covered , and came away split on whether it wanted to move forward.
They moved the plan forward anyway – but not everyone was happy with it.
Consultants have laid out the idea to use business incentives and zoning changes to encourage developers to buy property and built out projects with homes, restaurants, retail and office spots along the corridor, to give it the density and action required of a walkable place.
But some of the proposals – like the overall opportunity for developers to build over 1,000 homes on the road – was too much development. Councilman John Mullin also said the city should let the real estate industry look at the plan to see if it would even attract development before deciding to spend more time and money on it.