By Colleen Cochran
Evlyn Andrade-Heymsfield is vying for Santee’s District 1 City Council seat. Rumor has it, she is giving eight-year incumbent Rob McNelis a run for his money.
People in District 1 can’t turn their heads without seeing signs that read, “Evlyn.” She’s running on her first name, not only because her last name is unwieldy for some tongues, but because she truly is on a first-name basis with so many of the voters.
Santee, which always had an at-large, citywide voting system, was divided into four election districts in April of 2018. The smaller voting pool of the district system has enabled newcomer candidates, like Evlyn, to hit every resident’s door.
“I’ve spent each day of my campaign conversing with voters,” said Evlyn. “I learned their wants, needs, and concerns, and I plan to be the voice for them.”
Based on those conversations, she concluded that the majority of Santee residents are angry about over-development and, in particular, its effect on traffic.
Evlyn, therefore, opposes the Fanita Ranch project, a nearly 3,000-unit, 1,600 acre development slated to be built in the city’s northern hills. Because only three streets will lead up to the houses, she says most Santee residents cringe thinking about the commuter gridlock they will face on already overladen Mast Boulevard and Highway 52.
In response to citizen concerns about traffic, HomeFed Corporation, the developer of Fanita Ranch, has offered to add lanes to the 52 in order to alleviate bottlenecks. Evlyn is skeptical.
“While the developers have said they will contribute to the cost of improving the 52, it’s just that, a contribution. The entire project will cost about $1 billion. The city has hired a lobbyist to raise funds to meet the total project cost, but it has not yet raised a significant amount. We don’t know how long that will take. Infrastructure tends to become overburdened before improvements ever get constructed.”
She rejects any claims that the city will benefit from the impact fees received from the project.
“The impact fees that we are going to receive from the Fanita Ranch project are going to be one-time fees; they are not going to pay for the actual impact these developments will have over the long-term.”
Evlyn also stated that, because the area slated for development is particularly fire-prone, she thinks building homes there is unwise.
Evlyn Andrade-Heymsfield made it very clear that she is not against development in Santee so long as it represents “responsible, efficient, and economically valuable growth.”
“The people overwhelmingly reject the Fanita Ranch project,” she said. “They want policies that benefit the people of Santee and not just developers.”
Keen on finding new ways to bring revenue to the city, Evlyn said, “The people want more grocery stores and restaurants, so let’s start welcoming new businesses.”
Past history indicates the Fanita Ranch plan, should it pass through environmental review, will likely be approved if the present City Council members retain their seats. Only City Council Member Stephen Houlahan, whose District 4 seat is not open for election until 2020, has opposed the project.
Colleen Cochran is a San Diego-based legal editor.