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."