By Jim Miller / Jana Clark
Much of the reporting on the early campaign surrounding Measure A is falling victim to the proponents’ attempts to greenwash their deeply flawed measure by representing a few astroturf “environmental” organizations in league with big money from corporate interests and a handful of unions doing the bidding of downtown insiders as a “split” in progressive circles. This is unfortunate as the fact of the matter is that the opposition to Measure A by the Quality of Life Coalition represents a historically significant new alliance between progressive labor and nearly all of the local environmental organizations doing serious work around climate.
Two weeks ago in this space I was pleased to co-sign a column as Chair of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus along with Nicole Capretz, the Executive Director of the Climate Action Campaign, and Nick Segura, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569, explaining why progressives should say No Way to Measure A. In that same spirit, this week I am happy to cede my usual spot to Jana Clark, a board member of both the Cleveland National Forest Foundation and Save Our Forest and Ranchlands to explain why both Measures A and B are bad for San Diego.
Vote No on A and B for a Sustainable Future for San Diego County
It’s clear to many San Diego County voters that Measure A would set San Diego County on the wrong track for decades to come, making a no vote a no-brainer. But what many voters may not realize is that Measure B also has the potential to set our county on the wrong track when it comes to how and where development happens in cities and unincorporated areas alike. Anyone who is concerned about creating a sustainable future for San Diego County should also vote No on B this November.
With Measure B, a deep-pocketed developer is testing the waters with San Diego voters. The developer is trying to figure out if it’s possible to spend enough money on advertising to convince voters that a bad deal is actually a good deal. San Diego voters have an important job this election: to send a clear message that the ballot box is the wrong place to make land use decisions.
Many voters don’t even understand what Measure B actually is and does, thanks to an ongoing campaign of developer deception. In a nutshell, this ballot measure gives the green light to build Lilac Hills Ranch in a remote part of San Diego County. The development would be built on land that is currently zoned for 110 homes and farming; Measure B would up-zone the property to allow the construction of almost 1,750 homes and more than 90,000 square feet of retail space.
The measure also excuses the developer from completing the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act and eliminates the possibility of an appeal based on environmental concerns.
Measure B gives the developer a free pass to set the terms under which Lilac Hills Ranch would be built. When the project was before the County Planning Commission earlier this year, it was approved subject to a number of conditions aimed at protecting the health and safety of future Lilac Hills Ranch residents as well as that of existing residents in the region.
But when those conditions started to look too expensive, and when it became clear that the Board of Supervisors would not approve the project, the developer decided to try its luck with the voters instead.
Measure B would allow a substantially similar project to the one that received conditional approval from the Planning Commission to be built. But the Lilac Hills Ranch project that is before voters under Measure B is not an exact replica of the project that the Planning Commission approved. Instead, under Measure B, the developer cherry-picked which conditions to include and plainly flouts other requirements. An objective analysis prepared by County staff plainly supports this conclusion.
For example, the land on which Lilac Hills Ranch would be built is in a high-risk area for wildfire. County regulations currently require emergency and fire services to be able to reach a home within five minutes in the case of an emergency. Under Measure B, Lilac Hills Ranch residents will have to wait almost twice that long. And because Measure B allows the developer to skimp on road improvements in the area, it could take up to two hours for residents to evacuate in the case of fire. Anyone who has witnessed a wildfire knows that’s just too long.
This development would also set San Diego County on precisely the wrong track for reducing vehicle miles traveled and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Lilac Hills Ranch would add 19,000 new DAILY car trips to area roads and freeways.
Never mind the taxpayer burden associated with upgrading basic infrastructure like water, sewer, public safety, and schools – addressing traffic impacts alone related to Lilac Hills Ranch would cost the public more than $1 billion. Measure B only requires the developer to contribute $5 million toward that bill.
Lilac Hills Ranch is a perfect example of the kind of terrible sprawl project that would be supported – even encouraged – if Measure A passes. For a sustainable future for San Diego County, cast “no” votes on both Measures A and B. Sending a clear signal now to developers is the only way to get our county back on track.
Jana Clark is a board member of both the Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) and Save Our Forest and Ranchlands (SOFAR).
For information on the November 2016 General Election, see our San Diego 2016 Progressive Voter Guide