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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.

Alyssa October 24, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I've been out there. It's gorgeous and would have been a shame if it had been developed. Especially with the way developers are doing things nowadays--houses all the same, over-sized cookie-cutter fashion within reaching distance of each other, etc. I hope Fanita Ranch will eventually become part of the open space trail system that connects Santee to Poway.
Brandon Grant October 24, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Love the area and the natural setting, but hope Santee does find a place to build new homes. As the city continues to grow, new homes and developments are attractive to young families to consider Santee their new place to live. And whatever the development is or wherever it's put in, it would be nice to see some creativeness with the homes built rather than the cookie-cutter style mentioned above. Really hope Santee continues to grow, which means taking some risks in new housing developments and parks that accentuate rather than destroy the beautiful setting.
Monica October 24, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Terrific news! Keep that area open and free from development!
Frank October 24, 2012 at 05:24 PM
So what happens to the land since it is private property, and no one is supposed to be out there without permission from the ownwer? It is beautiful back there and I exercise back there at times. I guess it is always easier to tell someone what they can do with their property when you have none of 'your' money invested in it. Sounds like the Center for Biological Diversity needs to come up with the millions$$ needed to buy the land, and then they can do what they want with it. (Open space).
Paul m October 24, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Nice comments. I too, love to go back there and just recently discovered some new canyons I had never seen before. I would hate to see that area built up, and cringe when I see quad tracks and poor trail use (nasty erosion) by the motorized folks, however I realize Santee may need some additional housing. It would be a total shame to see that open space turned into a housing project. I would love to see Goodin Ranch or some open space group take possession, however as an avid (on trail) mountain biker, I would hate to see it end up like 'Tunnels' where the best trails are off limits. Some well thought out land use for everyone (non motorized) is in order. I know! Let's grant the land to Preserve Wild Santee and connect the mountains out east to the ocean. . . That's it, I can run for Mayor in 4 years on this platform. I recently have seen a Bobcat back there. Amazing. Deer, Coyote, giant rabbits and Bobcats. . . after the rain when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom, it's like another planet. (this year I promise to help get rid of the invasive plants I see when I'm back there - artichoke, thistle, etc). I like what Diane Jacobs is trying to do with The Marines and Stowe Trail, let's just widen it a bit to include the entire area from 67 to Scripps to 52 to Mast! :) OK, crazy rant over.
Phil October 24, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Well said.
Nancy October 25, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Nothing could make me happier. I can look out my front window and see these beautiful hills. I want to keep looking at them. Thank you Preserve Wild Santee.
Mark October 25, 2012 at 04:34 AM
California is ALWAYS short of potable water and Santee wants to add 1380 new single detached homes to solve the problem? I know the thieves at Padre Dam MWD are salivating at the thought of 1380 new homes; more unsuspecting suckers to gouge with their ridiculously high water rates!
Mike L. October 25, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Santee does not have to infastructure currently to support that kind of population influx. Traffic would be a nightmare on Mast. With the freeway extension it eased traffic on Mission Gorge, lets not take a step back
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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