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Court Rules Against Fanita Ranch Project on Fire Safety Issues

The sprawling Fanita Ranch housing development, planned for the hills just north of Santee since the 1980s, has hit another snag.

The controversial 2,600-acre , which aims to place 1,400 homes in the hills just north of Santee, was just hit with another debilitating court ruling for reasons of fire safety.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn ruled this week that the City of Santee hadn't developed a viable plan to clear the proposed housing area of brush and vegetation, referred to as "fire fuel," in the suit brought by the local environmental group Preserve Wild Santee (PWS) along with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Endangered Habitats League in 2008.

Reasons for ruling against the plan included inadequate fire evacuation routes based on lack of brush management plans and backfire firefighting techniques that could be used that could endanger existing Santee homes.

"It's a victory for public safety, the environment and common sense," said Van Collinsworth, President of PWS and source of the lawsuit.

HomeFed Corp., the which bought the land just over a year ago, expressed disappointment at the ruling.

Santee City Attorney Shawn Hagerty told the Union Tribune he would be meeting with City Council to discuss options.

The project has been in the planning stages since the mid-1980s, and was getting close to the time to build when the economic crisis struck the region in 2008 and 2009.

"Rather than considering changes to the project to mitigate fire safety issues, the City simply chose to retain experts to write three letters in support of a project that would place thousands of residents on islands within an ocean of fuels the state classified as 'very high fire severity zone,' " PWS said in a press release following the ruling.

The Court ruling rejected the City's strategy (see full ruling in media box):

“The City relies on these experts to support its adoption of the FPP without fuel management. However, the opinions are not supported by facts or the record. Interpreting 'requirements' as 'options' defies common sense.”

When asked what this means in the scheme of the project, only Collinsworth was willing to comment:

"For the immediate future, there will not be a Fanita subdivision. The longer term is unknown– but Court has provided the ability for all concerned to take a fresh look at the issues and constraints to Fanita development."

But, Homefed seems ready for a drawn out fight, having previously told Santee Patch, "we have a really long-term view of real estate development."

safesantee March 02, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Well this is good news, finally Santee wins a battle in preventing things we don't want. Also you have to be borderline insane to want to build homes at this time and in that area.
Travis Koopman March 03, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I think that having a large construction project would be good especially at a time like this but I believe this isnt the part of santee we need to be developing, there are many other areas which can be developed without damaging such a beautiful enviroment the this one. This would bring jobs to santee, but just build in a different area.
Van Collinsworth March 04, 2012 at 03:05 AM
If you like the court's decision please go to https://www.facebook.com/PreserveWildSantee and "Like" our page. Fanita Ranch news will be kept current there.
Simon's carpet care March 05, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I don't know of any other area that has 2,400 acreas--and remember only about half of that will have holmes and the other half will be open space. I just hope the developer does not have to go thru all this again. The people of santee already voted yes for this development.
rudy reyes March 05, 2012 at 03:02 AM
i told them this would happen!
Travis Koopman March 05, 2012 at 03:48 AM
@simons carpet care: what about by big rock park tons of open space, they already have newer developments by there so why not add more houses
Simon's carpet care March 05, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Its not 1200 acres or large enough to make the high end homes with large lots like .5 acre . large enough for boats,RV's, trailers. Most new developments here in Santee are Condo's ,not high end homes,
Chris March 06, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Votes voted yes on it because of the "Finish 52 now!" BS campaign. What did that bring us? HORRIFYING TRAFFIC. 52 is worse than ever. I knew the day 52 connect ed to 67 it was over. So many people thought it was such a great idea - siphoning off 20,000 cars per day that used to take I8. What smart planning. My commute is now 25 minutes instead of 10.
Chris March 06, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Voters voted yes on it because of the "Finish 52 now!" BS campaign. What did that bring us? HORRIFYING TRAFFIC. 52 is worse than ever. I knew the day 52 connected to 67 it was over. So many people thought it was such a great idea - siphoning off 20,000 cars per day that used to take I8. What smart planning. My commute is now 25 minutes instead of 10.
Simon's carpet care March 06, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I don't understand--I take the 52 thru santee almost every work day--What a time saver getting to the 67 -going North or South--No more going thru town unless you need to shop--it took traffic from out of town--I have never meant a person who does not like the new 52 extention!!! I'm sorry I don't think your numbers are correct.Let's ask Caltrains.
Chris March 06, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Every single person I know hates it. Traffic through town is the same. Now the line to get onto the 52 via Mast sometimes backs up all the way to Medina! Yaya!
Chris March 06, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Santee doesn't need high end homes. "Moving up" = leaving Santee.
Joe Spencer March 07, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Chris.... Thats a very odd view in my opinion.....especially when there is room to grow.
Joe Spencer March 07, 2012 at 01:53 AM
No way traffic is the same through town since the extension....thats ridiculous to even suggest.
Stephen Redder April 26, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Fanita Ranch is a beautiful area--great trail in and out of there. However, it's scary to imagine there being only a single road out of that valley in case there is a fire. I live in East County near Viejas and the wildfires in 2003 and 2007 have shown us how quickly we may have to leave.

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