By Mia Taylor
The controversial 1,700-home Lilac Hills Ranch development, a project fraught with wildlife safety concerns and a long list of environmental challenges, has been officially rejected by the Board of Supervisors by a 4-1 vote, a decision San Diego Democrats for Environmental Action says was long overdue.
"At long last, it's a validation of our club's long-standing concerns about habitat loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and fire risk that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has denied Lilac Hills Ranch the General Plan Amendment it sought," said Cody Petterson, president of San Diego Democrats for Environmental Action.
The Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday against the master planned Valley Hills project with only District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents the part of the county where the project would have been located, voting against staff recommendations to deny the project.
"This important, long overdue victory, will hopefully send a message to developers that projects which ignore the county's General Plan are unacceptable," said Petterson.
Proposed by developer Ranch Capital, the Lilac Hills proposal dates back some 15 years, and was soundly rejected by nearly two-thirds of voters in a countywide referendum in 2016. Despite superficial repackaging, the proposal brought before the current Board never fully addressed fire safety concerns, and remained inconsistent with the county's General Plan.
"Lilac Hills has been one of the region's most persistent zombie projects," said founding club president Tommy Hough, who now serves as the club’s director of policy. "County planning denied it in 2009, and then came the colossal defeat of Measure B in 2016. Lilac Hills has been a loser with the courts, voters, and public safety professionals."
"When you have to spend your time trying to convince residents your development won't put their families in mortal danger of dying in a wildfire on a winding two-lane road, you've already lost," said Hough. "Voters figured that out in 2016, but the surprise on Wednesday was a majority of the board similarly came to the realization that Lilac Hills and other loser developments like Newland Sierra are politically indefensible."
Despite the defeat of Lilac Hills, Petterson warns the battle to protect San Diego's fragile environment and open space from harmful, habitat-destroying sprawl proposals is far from over. "This important vote further underscores the critical importance of changing the leadership on the Board of Supervisors in District 3 if San Diego's environment is to be truly protected over the long term," he said.
"In tandem with their abject subservience to land speculators and sprawl developers, there will always be private equity firms like Ranch Capital eager to exploit the Republican Party's disdain for our environment, our climate, and the will of voters," said Petterson. "Make no mistake, so long as the Board remains in Republican hands, this zombie project will continue to haunt us. Wednesday's vote reinforces the importance of flipping the District 3 Board of Supervisors seat in November to secure a durable, reliable Democratic majority on the Board."
Photo by Diane Means
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