The developer-backed City Council made a blatantly illegal end run to exempt the Fanita Ranch project from voter accountability and state law. The site is rich in endangered species and would be irretrievably damaged by the development.
Late last year, the City adopted an “urgency” ordinance
it calls the Essential Housing Program. Incredibly, it claims that any project that would otherwise require an amendment to the City’s General Plan would automatically and conveniently be deemed “compliant and consistent” with the General Plan if it were certified under the new program. Certification occurs by accumulating enough “points.” This scheme would circumvent a citizen initiative that requires all plan amendments – like the huge density increase involved in Fanita Ranch – to be approved by the voters. For good measure, the ordinance itself was deemed exempt from CEQA. It is no coincidence that the City quickly certified Fanita Ranch under the program.
Earlier this year, EHL and other groups won a CEQA lawsuit court and the City was forced to rescind project approvals for Fanita Ranch. Since then, it has produced revisions to the environmental impact report in attempt to remedy fire hazard deficiencies. EHL and its allies – led by the local group Preserve Wild Santee Stop Fanita Ranch and represented by the Center for Biological Diversity – will comment on these revisions. We will also, at the proper time, contest this outrageous ordinance, which would thwart the rights of initiative guaranteed under the California constitution.