Decision nears on Safari Highlands project
J. Harry Jones, October 28, 2017
leaders will weigh the need for more housing and jobs against
potential traffic, fire and environmental concerns when it
considers a proposal early next year to build 550 luxury homes
in the mountains above the San Pasqual Valley.
draft environmental impact report that analyzed the project,
known as Safari Highlands Ranch because of its proximity to
the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, was released earlier this month.
It will be the largest residential development to come before
the Escondido City Council in decades.
project being proposed by Concordia Homes of Carlsbad will
place homes well above and to the east of the neighborhoods
of Rancho San Pasqual and Rancho Vista Monte off Cloverdale
Road. The gated community would cater to high-end home buyers
by offering large houses on large lots with spectacular views.
houses would be built on nearly 1,100 acres that Escondido
would annex from the county. Currently, under county zoning
laws, only 27 houses could be built there.
environmental report lists several impacts that cannot be
mitigated, including traffic, noise and air pollution, the
latter two being in play only during the years of construction.
big hurdle the developer will face is the issue of staffing
a new fire station that will be built as part of the project.
While Concordia will pay for the station, the millions of
dollars needed to staff it with equipment, firefighters and
paramedics over the coming years would be the citys
responsibility. Right now, the city is sweating ballooning
unfunded pension costs that are forcing it to make cuts to
city services, such as the recent unpopular decision to outsource
the public librarys staff to a private company.
city began the process of annexing the land in 2015.
Highlands is opposed by a number of environmental groups concerned
about the destruction of wildlife habitat and corridors, by
neighbors in rural areas to the north, and by a well-organized
group called the San Pasqual Preservation Alliance, which
is made up mostly of about 650 people who live in what would
be the neighboring communities west of Safari Park and near
the Eagle Crest Golf Course.
concerns include traffic, community character, fire hazards
and the impact on local schools.
have hired an attorney, Everett DeLano, to challenge the project.
is the definition of sprawl, DeLano said this week.
is a massive cut and fill on some very steep terrain,
he said. Its kind of incredible.
similar project for the same property was rejected more than
a decade ago, but a spokesman for the new developer -- Concordia
Homes -- said he's confident the strength of the project will
sway the council.
feel very positive about how things are going and that it
will bring much-needed housing to the city of Escondido,"
said Chris Wahl in June.
than three years ago, the council gave Concordia the go-ahead
to pursue development of the land without making any guarantees
it would be approved. About 200 people, almost all in opposition,
attended that pre-development hearing.
Olga Diaz made it clear back then that she would never vote
for the project.
a significant investment in infrastructure that the taxpayers
will have to maintain, she said during a candidates
forum. It's in a fire zone that can't handle any more
capacity on the roads when there is an evacuation."
said Concordia is a quality developer and she is sure the
homes would be beautiful, "but its the wrong place
for that kind of growth. I told the developer not to waste
their money because this is not a good idea."
the majority of what has been a pro-growth council has said
high-end homes in the city would hopefully attract high-tech,
well-paying businesses to Escondido, something they covet
for the tax revenues they could bring in.
city has scheduled a public open house meeting on the environmental
report on Nov. 7 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Mitchell Room
at City Hall, 201 N. Broadway.
format of the meeting will allow for people to drop in at