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Appeals Court Deals Another Setback to Fanita Ranch Housing Project

Water supply demands deal a blow to the 1,380-unit development that would cover thousands of acres on Santee’s northern edge.

An appellate court ruled Friday in favor of the opponents of the Fanita
Ranch project, a 1,380-unit development that would cover thousands of acres on Santee’s northern edge. That decision comes in the wake of two earlier legal setbacks for Fanita Ranch.

The city of Santee approved the latest iteration of development at Fanita Ranch in 2007. Subsequently, after legal challenges by Preserve Wild Santee, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Endangered Habitats League, a superior court judge twice ruled that the city failed to adequately consider the project’s fire safety impacts. Friday’s California Court of Appeal decision adds to these rulings, finding that the city improperly deferred dealing with the project’s effects on the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly and did not properly consider the project’s water supply demands.

As a result of the decision, the city will have to re-evaluate these concerns, as well as fire safety, if it decides to pursue the project in the future.

“Today’s decision is the third strike for this sprawling, unnecessary development in the heart of rich habitat for plants and animals,” said John Buse, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This ruling should be a clear message to the city and the developer that the project overreached.”

The 2,600-acre Fanita Ranch site is now almost entirely undeveloped open space that contains chaparral, coastal sage scrub and vernal pool habitats, and supports many rare plants and animals.

“Fanita Ranch is a regional treasure that deserves Santee’s highest priority for
conservation,” said Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee’s executive director. “Today’s decision lends further support to this priority.”

This post is based on a press release submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Laura Garcia October 28, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I agee!!.. My husband and I moved here 25 years ago!..To look around and see all the mountains and wildlife is why we choose to live here and raise a family.. The traffic is bad now,it would just get worse! Were do they think the water will come from?? Thanks Preserve Wild Santee for all you do:)
Stephen Goldfarb October 29, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Fanita Ranch is in the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP). The MSCP is a vast conservation program. It is called "enlightened" environmental public purpose legislation because it provides for limited development of privately held land. Otherwise it would be a "taking", meaning government possession of private property without just compensation (Inverse Condemnation). The overall MSCP goal is to conserve 90% of the region's land. You can read about the MSCP here: http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/mscp/summary/index.shtml
Tom Oatman October 30, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Had the 1999-2000 iteration of 2300+ houses been built-out (the one Santee voters overturned by a two-thirds margin), those homes would have begun selling in about 2003-2004. Santee would now be like Chula Vista and Riverside, with thousands of under-water owners having deserted, leaving the infrastructure but with no taxes for support. Had the 2007 project begun as planned, Fanita Ranch would now be a partially graded mess, again leaving the city to clean-up after a bankrupt developer. Sounds like the lawsuits saved the city a lot of money and grief. Time for the city to realize NO development is the best for Fanita Ranch.
Stephen Goldfarb October 30, 2012 at 12:57 AM
You have a point. Development should have been halted everywhere in anticipation of the financial crisis.
Margie Logue October 30, 2012 at 08:26 AM
Castlerock Development plans to go in across from W. Hills HS. San Diego gets their taxes, Santee gets to school their kids and fight their fires. If you think getting on to 52 at Mast is bad now, wait for another 2,000 cars added to it.

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