|General Plan Amendment 96-03 Update|
For the third time, SOFAR was victorious in its battle against the County for its inadequate planning for our almost 200,000 acres of precious backcountry rangelands and wildlands. Judge Judith McConnell of the Superior Court issued an order directing the County and the Board of Supervisors to vacate their approval of General Plan Amendment 96-03, certification of the EIR for the project, and approval of the CEQA Findings Concerning Mitigation of Significant Effects of the Project and the Statement of Overriding Consideration.
Further, the court directs the County to certify an EIR that complies with CEQA and rectifies the inadequacies specified in the court's Statement of Decision from August 31, 2000. This order was stipulated by both SOFAR and the County.
As expected, the County appealed the Court's decision. The Appeal's Court was scheduled to hear the case in March 2001 but it has been extended until late summer.
To help fund our continuing efforts to prevent inappropriate zoning in the San Diego's backcountry, please contribute to our GPA 96-03 campaign fund today.
The 200,000 acres involved in this critical general plan amendment are identified in light green, please make note that these acres serve as critical linkage corridors between the remaining islands of the Cleveland National Forest
The case of GPA 96-03 is the culmination of a long political and legal process to reconcile inconsistencies in the San Diego County General Plan that encourage urban development (a.k.a. "Sprawl") on agricultural and vast rangelands in San Diego's north and east county--the last vestiges of valuable open space for farming, ranching, wildlife habitat, and the protection of natural resources, including water.
During the past 5 years, SOFAR has tried to defend the public interest in good faith among County decision-makers, other civic organizations and agencies, and the public at-large. Frustratingly, over time SOFAR witnessed an undeniable coordination between the County, the Farm Bureau, and the Building Industry Association (BIA) over the future development of the remaining open spaces of our County. In fact, the BIA carefully watched all developments in this matter and was in attendance at all public meetings concerning it.
While we continue to hope for a more positive response from the County pertaining to our precious natural resources, the current posturing that the County proposal for GPA 96-03 is for the enhancement of agriculture discourages us.
SOFAR argues that GPA 96-03 encourages the fragmentation of wide-open rangelands and wildlife habitat, the destruction of valuable watershed, and discourages the large-scale ranching operations that enhance our economy, our scenic vistas and our rural heritage with huge impacts that the County admits are UNMITIGABLE.
For interesting reading, see the following sketch of key stages in the history of GPA 96-03 up to today. (Examples of scheming by the County, Farm Bureau and/or BIA are indicated with **.)
1995 SOFAR challenges County of San Diego in Superior Court for urban-style zoning (8-acre parcels) on 200,000 acres of rangeland preserves in San Diego backcountry.
Court declares General Plan inadequate because of a missing Agricultural Element and illegal urban zoning on rangelands. Concurrently, the Court declares a Moratorium on development on Agricultural and grazing Preserves.
**The Building Industry Association (BIA) enters an Amicus Brief (Friend of the Court Brief) saying the Moratorium placed on agricultural lands will have a "chilling effect on the housing industry."
1996 ** Farm Bureau proposes 10-acre zoning to the County for most agricultural lands. County accepts their proposal and submits it to the Court.
SOFAR argues the County plan is without merit. Court agrees and orders County to try again, and come back in 6 months.
**After Court appearance, SOFAR, in an effort to determine who is advising the County, discovers that the County's "advisor" on agricultural zoning was the chief counsel for PARDEE Construction Co.
1997 SOFAR, with growing realization that Farm Bureau,
BIA, and County are conspiring to sell-out the backcountry, starts the
Initiative process to correct for the failure in leadership in our administration
to decide for the public interest.
1997 (December) County orders taxpayer funded $50,000 study on the Initiative. Study questions are deceptive and use strongly judgmental language (i.e. they assumed blanket impacts on all areas of the county, whether or not the initiative was shown BY INDEPENDENT studies to incur impacts. In addition, the study questions presumed the nature of all effects of the initiative to be negative).
1998 (February) **National Association of Homebuilders conducts large-scale survey of San Diego households to determine campaign strategy on the Initiative before the initiative even qualified for the ballot.
(February) **Board of Supervisors, in one of the more blatant attempts to thwart the Initiative's success, directs the County's Chief Administrative Officer to seek urgency legislation to limit the ability of 84% of County voters from voting on General Plan and zoning initiatives that have County-wide impacts. County was unable to gather local and state support and abandoned this attempt to keep the Initiative off the ballot.
** County withdraws part of its report (section on traffic) because it was found to be heavily laden with bias and false documentation.
** Chief of Staff for Supervisor Ron Roberts, Steve Dannon, takes a leave of absence to work for the campaign against the Initiative.
**Supervisor Pan Slater becomes a signatory on the ballot arguments in opposition to the Initiative (Prop. B).
County continues working on GPA 96-03. In addition, planning for the overhaul of the County's General Plan (a.k.a. GP 2020) launches.
(November) the Rural Heritage & Watershed Initiative (Proposition B) failed to achieve enough votes to implement rural zoning on the County's agricultural and rural lands and subsequently filed a successful lawsuit against the County for Public Records Act violations relating to campaigning against the Initiative.
1999 SOFAR continued the waiting game while the County prepared its Environmental Impact Report, which was finally released 3 years after the original Court-designated deadline.
2000 In the name of "enhancing agriculture" in San Diego County, (See County Proposal for further detail as well as SOFAR's analysis) the County’s final plan for GPA 96-03 proposed to:
**The day the matter came before the Planning Commission, the Farm Bureau dropped its preferred alternative and sided with the County's proposal for GPA 96-03.
(March) The San Diego County Planning Commission heard testimony on GPA 96-03 and was unable to achieve enough votes necessary to approve the staff recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
(April) GPA 96-03 was adopted by the Board of Supervisors, based on a Statement of Overriding Considerations to allow intensive development on almost 200,000 acres of San Diego County backcountry.
(May) SOFAR files another lawsuit against county.
(November) The County appealed Judge Judith McConnell's ruling to the Appellate Court.
2001 The hearing by the Appellate Court has been extended to late summer 2001.
(September) County drops appeal and starts work to issue a "NEW" environmental impact report on substantially the same project they just lost on.
To help fund our continuing efforts to prevent inappropriate zoning in the San Diego’s backcountry please contribute to our GPA 96-03 campaign fund today.
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