Tag Archives: Planning

County Board of Supervisors approves up-zoning to 360 homes at Copper Hills. Read Detailed update

Update from our Elfin Forest Neighbors

RECAP OF YESTERDAY’s BOARD OF SUPERVISOR HEARING ON SD15 near SAN ELIJO HILLS:
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First, some background for rural residents and San Marcos residents:
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a) This proposal (SD15) was not a full project that they were seeking approval on. It was a change in zoning on the County land that the developer, Mr. Bieri purchased some years ago. It sought a 600% increase in the density of the land adjacent to San Elijo Hills (and to Elfin Forest) in addition to 138,000 sf of commercial.
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b) It was part of a convoluted process conjured up by the County called the Project Specific Request General Plan Amendment (PSR GPA) that included 23 different properties across 40+ planning areas, all seeking up zones or changes to the current General Plan. This was a process initiated by Supervisor Horn immediately after the most recent General Plan was approved in 2011 to satisfy property owners who felt the General Plan unfairly deprived them of the right to increase the value of their property through public action. [note: obviously, there is no inherent right to having your property investments increased massively by government decisions]. The County also paid for this process, costing $1.5 Million in taxpayer money. Normally, GPAs are paid for by the developers proposing them. SD15 was only one of the many up zones which is why the hearing took so long.
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c) These 23 requests were reviewed by the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday and they voted to approve or reject these projects one by one, but in essence they are all part of one big General Plan Amendment. Each of the votes they took will be documented and consolidated into one big document and then they will vote to approve it as one GPA at a later date.
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d) What this means is that the supervisors have not OFFICIALLY approved the PSR GPA, though it is a formality. As far as I know, this means WE MAY STILL BE ABLE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS to put “into the record” until such time as they vote on the final PSR GPA. Comments will not likely sway them to change their minds, but they will go “into the record” and be associated with the project and can be referred back to if any issues or litigation arise and perhaps could provide leverage in negotiations with the developer and/or County if it comes to that.
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e) The reason they didn’t officially vote on the PSR GPA yesterday is because they are only allowed to approve 4 General Plan Amendments per year and they’ve already approved 3 large projects (including HG Village South and Valiano) and have 4 more in the pipeline for this year (for a total of 10,000 homes). They are bundling multiple GPAs into batches in order to avoid triggering the violation of state law. There are several lawsuits pending at the moment that are challenging this batching/bundling, including the Town Council lawsuits against the County on HGVS and Valiano.
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f) In all likelihood, this PSR GPA vote will be bundled with the last set of projects: Lilac Hills, Warner Ranch and Otay 14 which will likely go to the supervisors on 10/31 or possibly 12/12 according to one source.
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THE VOTE: 4 to 1 in favor of the upzone with Diane Jacob opposing. Ron Roberts seemed to vacillate on the upzone and said on several occasions that the way they were assigning the densities seemed illogical. Horn, Cox and Gaspar, predictably voted in favor and Roberts sided with them in the end.
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ARGUMENTS: There were about 15 commenters, but we had lost quite a few due to the late hour. Most people can’t take time off work to sit around all day to comment on a project. Most of the arguments were focused on fire evacuation, traffic and school over-crowding. In addition there were complaints that this process was not transparent and no one was notified (because no one lives within 300 feet of the property, being adjacent to a landfill and open space on the other sides).
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The developer, Stephen Bieri and his consultants (Matt Simmons and his father, a local land use consultancy called Consultants Collaborative) made an attempt to address those concerns but since there was no actual project being analyzed there was very little hard data or evidence to support their perspective.
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– Regarding fire evacuation, Matt acknowledged the difficulty in evacuating San Elijo Hills during Coco’s fire but repeated what the public safety professionals have been saying: “we’ve learned a lot from past fires.” Evacuation will be handled differently. They will only issue evac orders one neighborhood at a time so not everyone will evacuate all at once thus preventing the backup. My response is that during Coco’s fire most people began evacuating way before the orders were given (due to social media and the myriad other ways people find out about fires) so an orderly evacuation is wishful thinking at best.
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– Regarding traffic, he made note that the project studies stating 16,000 average daily trips were flawed because they presumed that all 138,000 square feet of commercial space would be developed when they likely would not be. Unfortunately, since there was no actual project being proposed there was really nothing else to go by. Perhaps a more fleshed out project could provide a better assessment of the traffic, which is another reason I opposed the upzone.
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– Regarding the school over-crowding, the applicants made an argument that by the time the project was finally building out, the school population will have dropped based on projections from the current student population that apparently is top heavy. It seems to presume that the population of the area will go down in the years to come as well, which seems doubtful.
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I stated my opposition to the upzone on behalf of the Town Council on principal because there is no legitimate justification for increasing density 600%, just for the asking. According to the General Plan, to justify amending it, there has to be a public benefit and it may not impact public safety. On the public benefit, there is none, other than providing housing during a housing crisis. The general plan already provides for 66,000 buildable lots which is more than enough to keep up with housing growth. Furthermore, the Board of Supervisors are poised to approve 7 amendments this year alone with over 10,000 houses previously not in the general plan which brings the total to 76,000. In addition, there is a development in Harmony Grove (HG Village) that is in build out phase and they have only built 300 out of 742 homes and they have not been selling like hotcakes, despite the housing crisis. On the public safety side, I’m not convinced that this is not a public safety risk as mentioned above.
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I also opposed the upzone because I believe that the developers should present a complete project to the community rather than forcing an upzone that will permanently entitle that land to having 362 homes regardless of what they end up doing. I disagree completely with how they went about this, though they say it was a County initiated process. The County did initiate this process, but it was to satisfy the property owners who felt they were unfairly deprived of the right to increase the value of their properties (at public expense). [note: property owners do not have an inherent right to have their properties increased value by a government decision]. It is unfortunate because perhaps the community might have been amenable to some sort of compromise. Now they feel that they were hoodwinked through an obscure backchannel process and are now forced to accept up to 362 homes when only 61 were allowed.
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NEXT STEPS (mosly directed at San Elijo Residents who will need to absorb 362 homes, but also rural residents in EF / HG as well):
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a) You can write more comments bringing up whatever issues you felt were not brought up in previous comments, letters or testimony.
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b) Consider attending the final vote to register your opposition to the PSR GPAs and the SD15 proposal in particular.
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c) You can wait patiently until the developer brings forth a more fleshed out project either through San Marcos or the County and weigh in on that project. Believe it or not, but some developers do want to work with the communities and the community does have leverage in working through a plan that might be workable to all. You might have a little less leverage now because the a lot of the effects of this project come from the increased density and that will be difficult to oppose given that the County has approved it already. But yes, some developers do try to work with the communities involved so you can start with that assumption, in good faith, until proven otherwise.
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d) And, of course, there is always litigation if you truly believe that the County violated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or other federal, state or County laws in approving this upzone. This is not to be taken lightly as there is no guarantee that you will prevail and it makes it much harder to work with the developer later on. Consult a lawyer if you feel this way and you have 29 days to file after the GPA is approved.
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e) support the SOS (Save our San Diego Countryside) Initiative which will be on the March 2020 Ballot. If the voters approve it, most GPAs that are in the County will have to go to a referendum to all the voters in the County to approve GPA projects. This will encourage developers seeking GPAs to put forth projects that people are likely to vote for. It may or may not affect this project, but it will give more power to the people versus the 3 rubber-stamping supervisors and the developers who help get them elected. http://www.saveoursdcountryside.org
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f) Get more involved and informed about land use and housing which are the most likely to impact your quality of life. Seek out local candidates who support your view on housing. Don’t get thrown off by typical political distractions that both parties use to attract voters. Vote based on local issues. [FOR SAN ELIJO RESIDENTS] In your district there are four candidates: Randy Walton (who was at the hearing yesterday), Kristal Jabara, Eric Flodine and Mike Sannella. The Town Council does not endorse candidates but can make factual statements about them. I will note that Mr. Sannella is endorsed by the Building Industry Association and has also received thousands of dollars from the BIA as well as the developer of the aforementioned project, Stephen Bieri. You should research their stances and make a decision accordingly. For Mayor, you have Chris Orlando who I believe lives in San Elijo and Rebecca Jones. [FOR COUNTY RESIDENTS] District 5 supervisors candidates are Michelle Gomez and Jim Desmond. Desmond is endorsed by the Building Industry Association as well and has received campaign donations from a who’s who of developers of major projects around the County. He was recently in the news for accepting donations from developers in San Marcos and then voting to approve their GPA projects months later, despite loud opposition by the community including a recall effort on one of the decisions.
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Land use and housing is likely the biggest issue that a community will face that will have the biggest impact on your quality of life. Sign up for the City of San Marcos Council newsletters AND the County Board of Supervisors newsletter where the meetings and agendas are announced. Sign up for Grow the San Diego Way’s newsletter to get more insights on land use and housing in the area. I started Grow the San Diego Way as a think tank and policy research outfit that seeks to provide a more balanced discussion on housing and land use that is a counterbalance to the narrative that is currently dominated by the profit motives of the building industry. www.growthesandiegoway.com
Also sign up for the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council E-ALERTS at: http://eepurl.com/bz03fv
Good luck.
-JP Theberge
Grow the San Diego Way
Vice Chair, Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council

Supervisors Hearing September 12: SD15 -Copper Hills (362 units on San Elijo Road at entrance to San Elijo Hills)

Op-Ed opposing County rezoning of 69-acre lot west of the landfill (sent to San Elijo Life by Friends of Copper Creek)

Urgent Appeal to Save San Elijo Hills Quality of Life:  Deadline September 12!

A huge increase in zoning is currently being proposed that, if approved, will permanently change San Elijo Hills.  The 69-acre property is just west of the closed San Marcos Landfill, south of San Elijo Road.  This project is called SD15 in the County and Copper Hills in the City of San Marcos.  

The developer could have named this project “Toxic Hills” as this land never produced copper and County reports document (1) on site signs of landfill leachate and/or landfill gas intrusion and (2) possible health risks to future residents and tenants.  

This will change the community forever by

  • harming the character of the community;
  • dramatically increasing traffic;
  • impeding emergency evacuation and diverting fire resources; and 
  • causing environmental harm to Copper Creek and neighboring habitat preserves.  

Right now, this property is in the unincorporated County.  An amendment to the County General Plan proposes increasing SD15’s maximum density almost six-fold from 61 dwelling units (SR-1 zoning) to 362 dwelling units plus a large amount of commercial space (C-1, SR-0.5, VR-10.9 zoning).

This project will be heard at a Board of Supervisors meeting on September 12 and will be approved unless San Elijo Hills and other neighbors vocally protest.  While the San Dieguito Planning Group voted against this project, County staff and the Planning Commission are recommending approval.  Nonetheless, this project can be stopped by our elected representatives if residents speak up.

Traffic Increases

If this property is rezoned, County studies report there will be an additional 16,231 average daily trips.  That is approximately a 27-fold increase over the number of trips allowed under current zoning.  This will negatively affect the quality of life.

Impedes Emergency Evacuation

Existing roads and connectors are already inadequate to provide a safe exit from San Elijo Hills.  In the 2014 Cocos fire, there was traffic gridlock causing people to wait hour(s) to evacuate.  The proposed residential and commercial density will make this problem much worse.

Diversion of Fire Resources

This property will primarily rely on the San Marcos Fire Department and will divert fire protection resources from San Elijo Hills.  This property will be very difficult to defend on up to three sides from a fire.  Because of the proposed density concentration, fire departments would likely prioritize this property over single family homes. 

Harms to Copper Creek/Escondido Creek/San Elijo Lagoon

Copper Creek (leading to Escondido Creek and San Elijo Lagoon) is already suffering from siltation, sedimentation, scouring and flooding from projects such as this that did not adequately mitigate the impacts.  The intensity of this proposed development/hardscape will only increase the harms to the Creek and property downstream.  

This project is opposed by the Escondido Creek Conservancy.

This Project Is Harmful to Habitat, Including Nearby Preserved Lands

This property serves as an important connector/corridor from the County Core to the San Marcos habitat areas.  Development of this property as proposed will fragment the habitat and decrease habitat connectivity between the County and San Marcos.  Edge effects will harm neighboring habitats and fuel modification arrangements will cut into the habitat.  Light and glare effects will affect neighboring preserves and decrease resident’s quality of life.  

This project is opposed by neighboring land managers, including the Center for Natural Lands Management.  

County Neighbors were Held to a Double Standard

Before the County’s 2020 General Plan Update, this property and its neighbors were all zoned 1 dwelling unit per 2 acres.  As a result of General Plan 2020, this property was already doubled in density to 1 dwelling unit per 1 acre while its County neighbors lost their density and are now zoned 1 dwelling unit per 10 acres.  That means this project will have 52.5 times the density of its County neighbors.  This just isn’t fair!

Landfill Dangers

There have long been concerns with the San Marcos landfill.  The landfill is mostly unlined and took 18.75 million tons of material between 1979 and 1997.  The landfill reportedly accepted residential, commercial and agricultural waste including paint and paint thinners, oil, treated sewage sludge and medical waste.  No laws prevented “certain types of low level radioactive waste, known as decommissioned materials” from disposal in the San Marcos Landfill.

A 2017 letter from the County about SD15 states, “While the San Marcos Landfill has closed, it can be expected to remain biologically active and generate landfill gas and leachate for more than 30-50 years after closure.”  Monitoring may need to continue forever.

The County writes that “Landfill gas represents a health and safety issue” and gas can “migrate off-site.”  Landfill gases “can pose an explosion and human health threat.”

SD15’s onsite groundwater monitoring wells are detecting toxic chemicals of concern (“COCs”).  According to the County, there are two likely sources: landfill leachate and landfill gases.  Per County documents, “[t]he source of COCs outside the waste area is likely due to migration of [landfill gas] and, to a lesser degree, leachate.”  County letters concerning SD15 state that “Landfill gas has been documented to travel in the subsurface 1,000 feet or more from the source.  The underlying geology of [SD15] is fractured rock, which adds another layer of complexity to potential gas migration.”

County maps show that most of the groundwater from the landfill flows towards the west, towards SD15/Copper Hills.

News articles report that the San Marcos landfill “is leaching chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm and other health problems.”  It continues, “officials said that because these chemicals don’t occur naturally, any leak exceeds standards set for those sites” and “[a]ny volatile (organic compound) that’s detected in groundwater is an indication of release from the landfills” (emphasis added).

Unfortunately, the County has limited ability to protect residents/tenants from landfill gases and landfill gases.  The County has stated that the Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency “has no regulatory authority to require [this] Project to be constructed with measures to mitigate the effects of the landfill” (emphasis added).  

The County has only the power to request Department of Environmental Health monitoring of residents, resident notification of landfill proximity, and installation of landfill gas mitigation measures such as explosion-proof conduits/sealing, use of a gas migration barrier with passive venting and hard-wired methane detectors.  Will this developer follow the County’s requests?

In 1999, eighty acres of San Elijo Hills was condemned by the County as a landfill buffer.  News reports state the condemned land was located 1000 feet to 1.5 miles away from the landfill.  SD15/Copper Hills is within 1000 feet of the landfill.

This property should not be aggressively developed and this project should be stopped.

Doesn’t this project include a Boys and Girls Club?

As the property is currently zoned for 61 homes only, with no commercial zoning, it is highly unlikely that there is any definite plan for any specific commercial tenant. I have seen real estate developers frequently make big promises to push through their projects.  Often these promises are not kept and communities disappointed.

Real Estate Speculators Should Not Benefit at the Expense of Neighbors

This property was purchased by the developer, Steven A. Bieri, for only $48,755 per acre.  That price reflects that this land is not suitable for intensive development.  Now, these real estate speculators want to benefit themselves at the expense of the San Elijo Hills, Harmony Grove and Elfin Forest communities.  

Take Action:

We can build a better world for our families and children by speaking up because every voice matters in local politics.  The more public input, using different communications methods, the greater the likelihood that we can preserve the community:

  • Oppose this in person at the Board of Supervisors Meeting on September 12, 2018 at County Administration Center (CAC), Room 310 (Board Chambers), 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego;
  • Contact all five County Supervisors via Email, Facebook and Twitter opposing the project; 
Supervisor’s email address Supervisor’s Chief of Staff email address Facebook Twitter
greg.cox@sdcounty.ca.gov danny.melgoza@sdcounty.ca.gov Gcoxsdcounty @SupervisorCox
dianne.jacob@sdcounty.ca.gov jeff.collins@sdcounty.ca.gov dianne.jacob.58 @dianne_jacob
kristin.gaspar@sdcounty.ca.gov dustin.steiner@sdcounty.ca.gov SupervisorKristinGaspar @kristindgaspar
ron-roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov salvatore.giametta@sdcounty.ca.gov SupervisorRonRoberts @RonRobertsSD
bill.horn@sdcounty.ca.gov Darren.Gretler@sdcounty.ca.gov SupervisorHorn @SupervisorHorn
  • Sign a petition; 
  • Share this information with your family and friends and encourage them to take action; 
  • Read more and sign up to the mailing list.  The developer is also processing this project in the City of San Marcos that will also need public input.

 

City and school district partner in planning for the future (Press Release from City of San Marcos)

 Last July, the City of San Marcos and the San Marcos Unified School District established the Joint Task Force on School Development (Task Force) to formally partner in planning for the future of San Marcos schools.

With a decade’s long history of supporting one another, the city and district serve the community of San Marcos together and their destinies are intertwined.

While growth presents challenges, it also brings energy to the community and strengthens the local economy.  Growth has been instrumental in supporting a robust School District and is a key component in providing funds to build future schools.

The recently established Task Force is focused on sharing information with their respective elected bodies and the public, identifying possible locations for school sites, and planning for the future.

Already, the Task Force has taken numerous steps to understand school needs and growth trends, and to come up with solutions for the current challenges:

  • Data Sharing & Growth Projections: While the district regularly collects data regarding growth trends, the Task Force has further examined information on the City General Plan – a 20+ year long term planning document –and data regarding actual build out.By analyzing current and anticipated residential growth, the School District is better able to determine its needs to increase capacity at school sites and to locate and purchase land for new school sites.
  • Exploring Options for Schools: The Task Force continues to review options for addressing increasing student enrollment across the city.Options include ways to optimize existing schools to handle current and projected demand, and ways to increase resources for school infrastructure.
  • School Site Search: A focus of the Task Force has been to identify possible sites for new schools.The district is in the initial phases of exploring several potential sites.

A comprehensive update on Task Force progress will be shared during a joint public meeting between the San Marcos City Council and the San Marcos School Board on Thursday, March 29 at 6 pm at the San Marcos Community Center, 3 Civic Center Drive.

Public meeting announcement for new proposed project on Twin Oaks near South Lake.

NOTICE OF PUBLIC WORKSHOP

WHEN: WHERE: PROJECT:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 6:00 PM
City of San Marcos – Valley of Discovery Room, 1 Civic Center Drive, San Marcos, CA Brookfield Residential Properties “MU-4 Area” – P17-0015: Specific Plan 17-002, General Plan Amendment 17-002, Rezone 17-001, Tentative Subdivision Map 17-003, Multi-Family Site Development Plan 17-002, Grading Variance 17-003

This notice is to inform you of an upcoming public workshop for the proposed Brookfield Residential Properties MU-4 project. The proposed project includes a Specific Plan Amendment, General Plan Amendment, and Zone Change to modify the permitted land uses onsite from Heart of the City Specific Plan “Business Park” and Public Institutional (PI) to Heart of the City Specific Plan “Low Medium Density Residential” (8-12 dwelling units per acre); a Tentative Subdivision Map and Multi-Family Site Development Plan to construct 218 attached residential condominium units; and, a Grading Variance to allow for slopes in excess of 20 feet. The project site is located at the southwest corner of South Twin Oaks Valley Road and South Village Drive. The workshop is intended to provide to the public an overview of the proposed project by the developer and an opportunity to inquire and comment on the proposed project. For more information, please contact Art Piñon in the Planning Division at (760) 744-1050, extension 3234, or email at apinon@san-marcos.net, or visit the Development Services counter during the week between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm. Note: We are closed every other Friday.

City of San Marcos hires new development services director

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Dahvia Lynch, former Chief Planning Officer for North County Transit District, will serve as the new Development Services Director for the City of San Marcos.

“After an extensive and competitive recruitment process, we have found the right person to step into this critical role,” said City Manager Jack Griffin. “Ms. Lynch brings a wealth of planning, project management and general management experience to the team with an understanding for the San Marcos vision—a well-planned community that promotes the interest of all its residents.”

Stepping into the new role Monday, Nov. 14, Lynch said it is an exciting time to join San Marcos.

“San Marcos is a vibrant community with opportunities to move the right kind of development forward,” said Lynch. “I am eager to support progress and the evolution of a community that has something for everybody.”

As the Development Services Director, Lynch will assume full responsibility for of the Development Services Department including planning, building, and land development engineering services and activities. She will be charged with facilitating a customer-centered environment that focuses on efficient, accurate, consistent and positive outcomes while coordinating land use and building approvals for all development.

“One of my first priorities is to advance the city’s customer service and economic development goals,” said Lynch. “My focus will be on improving existing protocols for processing private and public projects so that we are as efficient as possible while respecting an existing regulatory framework.”

With more than 15 years of land use planning and project management experience, Ms. Lynch brings a track record of successful capital project delivery and executive leadership in government agencies.

While with North County Transit District, Lynch was responsible for overseeing planning staff in performing transit service planning and contractor performance management, environmental planning, and regulatory compliance for capital and operational programs. During her tenure, she established a fully functioning division while establishing a business plan, strategic framework, capital program, and improving processes and procedures for highly skilled staff.

Lynch played a significant role at North County Transit District by drafting proposals for joint development at three transit stations and led the Solana Beach Joint Development project through successful procurement.

Ms. Lynch also worked for the County of San Diego for twelve years on long-range and current planning activities, capital project management and in executive leadership with a focus on organizational dynamics and process improvement.

“My greatest accomplishments have revolved around improving development processes associated with public projects,” said Lynch. “It is extremely meaningful when you can see a tangible project delivered to the community.”

Lynch earned a Masters of Urban Planning and a Bachelor’s of Planning, Public Policy and Administration. She is recognized by the American Institute of Certified Planner as a Certified Environmental Planner and is a LEED Accredited Professional.

“I am humbled and at the same time excited about this opportunity to serve the community of San Marcos. I’m eager to get started, immediately working to listen, to foster a team environment, and above all, to contribute to the quality of life for our entire community,” said Lynch.

City of San Marcos to host workshop for proposed San Marcos Highlands project

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City to host workshop for proposed San Marcos Highlands project

On Wednesday, October 8 at 6 pm, the City’s Planning Department will be hosting a public workshop for the San Marcos Highlands housing project at the San Marcos Community Center, 3 Civic Center Drive.

The workshop will provide an overview of the proposed project by the applicant. Both the applicant and City staff will be available to take public comments and questions.

The Highlands project calls for 189 new single-family homes on 262 acres at the northern end of Las Posas Road along with an additional 26 acres of open space on an adjacent property to the northwest.

For more information & maps, please visit www.san-marcos.net/highlands or call Associate Planner Norm Pedersen at (760) 744-1050, ext.3236 or emailnpedersen@san-marcos.net.