file suit to block key suburban San Diego housing project
David Garrick, August 17, 2021
says The Junipers in Rancho Peñasquitos violates environmental
law, would exacerbate wildfire risk
lawsuit filed by a well-organized group of Rancho Peñasquitos
residents will test San Diegos plan to help solve its
housing crisis with dense developments in suburban areas.
suit, which seeks to block construction of the 536-unit Junipers
project on the defunct DoubleTree Golf Course, claims the
city failed to properly analyze the projects impact
on traffic, fire safety, community character and other issues.
two months after the City Council approved the project in
June, the suit also contends the 112-acre project violates
the citys general plan, housing goals and mobility policies
plus the Rancho Peñasquitos community plan.
raised their concerns during the council hearing, but the council
unanimously approved The Junipers with one caveat: developer
Lennar Homes must build a special emergency evacuation route
before residents can move in.
Junipers is a key project in the citys plan to add dense
developments on the edges of suburban, mostly single-family
neighborhoods. The goal is to add much-needed housing without
damaging community character.
the residents, who call themselves the Peñasquitos-Northeast
Action Group, say the city is taking the plan too far by allowing
what they call excessive development in an area with limited
access in and out.
the problem, the residents say, is the proximity of two other
new projects: the nearly complete, 601-unit Pacific Village
and the 331-unit Millennium PQ, which is under construction.
lawsuit challenges the councils approval of an environmental
impact report for the project required under state law. The
suit says the city failed to consider all the impacts and didnt
properly analyze possible mitigation efforts.
key issue for the residents is fire safety. They stress that
the area has been evacuated at least five times in the last
20 years, including during the 2003 and 2007 wildfires.
say The Junipers would clog nearby roadways and make it impossible
for residents to evacuate quickly from one of the citys
most wildfire-prone areas.
officials said during the council hearing that its evacuation
and fire protection plan for the area is sound.
say The Junipers includes three points of emergency ingress
and egress, noting that residents would be able to head south
through The Junipers to access Carmel Mountain Road if Peñasquitos
Drive is closed during an emergency.
also tout an emergency exit at the end of Andorra Way, where
they plan to remove bollards. But the residents say the road
is too narrow for two-way traffic, preventing evacuations
if fire engines are coming into the site.
separate evacuation route required by the council would be
in this location.
it is rare for lawsuits filed on environmental grounds to
successfully block housing projects, this case could be different
because the fire safety concerns take it to another level,
said Everett Delano, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf
of the residents.
members and the developer have described The Junipers as a
model project, contending it will provide much-needed housing
in addition to parks and trails.
Junipers will include 455 market-rate units and 81 subsidized
units with rent restrictions that will be reserved for people
aged 55 and up.
say that the three projects would add 3,000 more car trips
per day to the mostly suburban area, more than doubling the
spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott said Elliott hasnt
yet been served with the suit, which was filed in San Diego
Superior Court Aug. 5. The spokeswoman said that once Elliott
is served, the city will review the suit and respond through