The Watchdog Newsletter
January 2003


Many thanks for all of your contributions and letters of support to SOFAR this past year. Knowing we have the support of so many members of our regional community reinvigorates our spirits with hope that we can make meaningful progress for sustainable land use planning in San Diego County. Unfortunately, as you will read below, end of the year news demonstrates a continuing trend toward the exact opposite.


SOFAR is now in a new office located at 1087 "J" St. in downtown San Diego. The phone (619-230-1963) and fax (619-230-1246) numbers remain the same.

Other Updates .......


SOFAR has won an important legal victory in the battle over the environmental review of the enormous septic system proposed on pristine meadowland just north of Lake Cuyamaca by the Cuyamaca Lake District. SOFAR's attorneys, Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger argued that due to the failure of the Lake District to fulfill their legal responsibilities to account for all environmental impacts of the project, that the Regional Water Quality Control Board must by law assume lead agency status and responsibility for assuring CEQA compliance. The Water Quality Board has officially accepted a lead agency status and a full EIR will be conducted.
A solution already exists to solve what has become an embarrassing and ultimately unworkable project for the Cuyamaca Lake District. The property proposed for the septic system could be transferred to the State Park system and the Lake district's waste disposal needs can be solved by using State Park facilities to the south of the lake. SOFAR encourages the adoption of this plan.


Recently obtained memoranda from the Stonegate Development Company of Laguna Hills confirms an organized attempt to delay San Diego County's General Plan 2020 process until certain development projects could gain approval from the Board of Supervisors. The memoranda, released under deposition to San Diego attorney Michael Aguirre, outlined a long and broad-based effort on the part of developer interests to squelch the original maps proposed under GP-2020. Stonegate's plan, as outlined in a series of memos from June 2000 to April 2001, was to intentionally delay the entire GP-2020 process - working with the full cooperation and participation of staff members of the Board of Supervisors, notably current Board of Supervisors' chairman Bill Horn.
"PLAN 2020 DERAILED!!" begins a February 28, 2001 memorandum from Stonegate Development Company president David Youde. "Due to the concerted effort of David Shibley of the SOLV (Save Our Land Values) GROUP and hundreds of angry landowners, the Board of Supervisors squelched Alternative III of the General Plan 2020 update. This was an important battle victory. It is not the whole war, but it did delay the process and provide us a window of opportunity to move our projects forward," added Youde.
"Two election cycles have come and gone since the 2020 process began," said Lakeside Planning Group Chairman Gordon Shackelford. "This has proved devastating to the community planning groups and most likely provided political cover for the Supervisors to sell out the unincorporated areas to land speculation interests."
The original GP-2020 maps - known as the Alternative III maps and drawn by a steering committee made up of planning group leaders from the 17 unincorporated communities within San Diego County - was rejected by the Board of Supervisors on January 10, 2001. Developers wanted less density - with the population spread over a greater area of land through out the County. These recently released memoranda from Stonegate now make clear they went to great lengths to organize and get the results they wanted.
"Since the Ramona Planning Group spent considerable time and effort in creating and voting on the Aternative III community planning maps ... the magnitude of the information in the memos may significantly affect the future actions of the county planning groups as they reconsider their original and subsequent deliberations over the 2020 plan," said SOFAR president Duncan McFetridge.
SOFAR, which has successfully sued the Board of Supervisors on five different occasions over their land use decisions, has long alleged that an institutionalized corruption existed in which the County Department of Planning and Land-Use and the Board of Supervisors actually prevented proper planning from taking place. McFetridge said the process has made the public very cynical about it's government.
"This whole process is a charade. The developers are acting in bad faith and the county goes along with everything they say," added McFetridge. "They don't want any type of plan that prevents them from doing what they want to do, and they use these meetings as a way to stall and corrupt the planning process while they go on building. It's common knowledge to say that land use politics is corrupt in San Diego County, but now we have a smoking gun of why our beaches are polluted, gridlock exists on our freeways, environmental destruction regularly takes place, and a housing shortage crises exists in this county. Special interests have controlled the decision making process in land use matters in San Diego," said McFetridge.


The San Diego Planning and Environmental Review Board (PERB) unanimously rejected a proposal to build an 81,198 square foot storage complex on 2.87 acres at 2358 Tavern Road in Alpine. Led by planner Lory Nagem-Tavernelli, PERB told the current land owners of the project that building a storage complex of such magnitude would intrude on the neighborhood and be a hazard to Alpine's growing traffic and congestion problems.
"The neighborhood's character is residential. This project does not agree with Alpine's community plan. It is two miles deep into the residential neighborhoods of Alpine - an area not intended to handle such an intense urban development," said Nagem-Tavernelli. "This project is incompatible with the neighborhood."
SOFAR president Duncan McFetridge spoke out against the Benson project, citing a letter from the law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, which denounced the proposed storage complex as in violation of San Diego County's land use regulations.
"We can find no evidence that an 82,000 square-foot-storage facility constitutes an allowable use in the Residential land use designation. Rather, this type of large commercial facility, which has no relation to residential uses, appears plainly incompatible with the applicable designation," stated a November 8, 2002 letter to the PERB commissioners.
PERB commissioner Nagem-Tavernelli agreed with the conclusions of both McFetridge and the Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger letter.
"SOFAR makes an excellent point. A storage facility is not the same as a school or a church. These are necessities for a community. Another storage facility does not fall under the category of necessity," said Nagem-Tavernelli.


"Lakeside citizens have strong feelings about the quality of the Community's natural setting, agricultural history, village-like Town Center and rural residential character."
Lakeside Design Guidelines,
July 17, 1989
After more than two years in limbo, the proposed Ralph's supermarket project for the corner of Olde Highway 80 and Lake Jennings Parkway in Lakeside is back ... and round two should prove more explosive than the first. As proposed, the Ralph's project would require re-zoning 13 acres of property on Olde Highway 80 between Lake Jennings/Ridge Hill Road to the south and Rios Canyon Road to the north. The plan would abolish the southern portion of Pecan Park Lane, extending Rios Canyon Road all the way to a newly formed t-section with Olde Highway 80.
The land is currently divided into seven separate parcels with four land-use zones. Single-family residential housing is the primary use designated by the current zoning. Small commercial and industrial uses are the other zoning designations for the property. A five-acre farm dominates the center of the site. A four-acre parcel of fallow land next to it is zoned for single-family houses.
South Coast Development, the Solana Beach firm in charge of building the shopping center, is asking the Board of Supervisors to re-zone the entire area to C-36 commercial. This designation would allow the developers to build a 94,000 square foot shopping center anchored by a 58,000 square foot Ralph's supermarket. An additional 16,000 square foot building would exist for a drugstore. Two retail shops - 4,500 square feet and 8,550 square feet respectively - would be allotted to the shopping center, as would a 3,000 square foot gas station/car wash. A 3,500 square foot fast food restaurant would round out the businesses within the shopping center. A parking lot of 486 spaces with 68 bicycle spaces would be developed within the shopping center.
"They want to put this abomination less than a mile from my home. The lights from the Wal-Mart/Vons center are two miles away and they make me feel like I live under two moons at night. If this goes in, pretty soon it will be like Alaska, where it never gets totally dark," said Rios Canyon resident Stan Barbeau.


SOFAR's attorneys have won a very important procedural battle over whether or not the Barona reservation's proposed water line from San Vincente reservoir was based on an" emergency" and thus exempt from CEQA. Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger argued that a proper reading of the law made it impossible to declare the water shortage on the reservation an emergency because it has been self created by the over drafting of ground water supplies. The city of San Diego agreed and is requiring a full EIR for the proposed water transfer.


SOFAR is commenting on SANDAG's regional transportation plan (RTP), which is scheduled for certification in March. The RTP appears to be more of a highway plan than a public transit plan and does little to move us from an auto-based land use system. Billions are being spent on road systems, which subsidize sprawl and nothing is being done to mitigate these impacts.
SOFAR is also concerned that the county's 2020 plan is promoting sprawl in the name of smart growth. We will be commenting on every aspect of this so-called plan. And we continue to point out that while the county is fiddling, San Diego's back county is burning up with a sprawl (see Stonegate story).
On the imperial irrigation district water transfer, SOFAR's position is that the water transfer should not take place without the adoption of a smart growth land use plan as mitigation for the obvious growth inducing impacts of importing new water supplies. Our current land use policies are using all of the public's built and natural resources in a non-sustainably and socially harmful way. We are socializing the cost of producing and maintaining public resources while developers privatize the profits. Now is the time, before the water is transferred to insist on a sane and healthy city building alternative that benefits people instead of profits.
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