Newland Sierra Town Sierra
A rendering of the planned Newland Sierra Town Center in North County.

Opponents of a planned development of 2,100 homes north of Escondido announced Friday a signature gathering effort to place a referendum before voters.

The controversial Newland Sierra project was approved 4-0 Wednesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, with several supervisors saying the region is facing a housing crisis and needs new construction.

“County supervisors and Newland Sierra are ignoring the people of San Diego about how we want our communities to grow,” said Susan Baldwin, a leader of the Committee Against Newland Sierra and Bad Development. “Politicians aren’t listening, so this is how San Diegans get a say.”

But a spokesperson for developer Newland Communities said the referendum effort isn’t coming from the community, but is in fact sponsored by the Golden Door spa located in the area.

“Newland Sierra will bring desperately-needed housing to the North County on property already zoned for development, while preserving 61 percent of the property as permanent open space,” said Rita Brandin, vice president of Newland Communities. “Now, in an act of pure selfishness, the East Coast billionaires who recently purchased the Golden Door luxury spa have launched an assault on what has been a fair and transparent public process.”

Plans for the 1,985-acre site call for 2,135 homes, 81,000 square feet of commercial space, a six-acre school site, 35.87 acres of public and private parks, 19.2 miles of multi-use community trails, an equestrian staging area and 1,209 acres of open space.

The group opposing the development has 30 days to gather enough signatures to qualify for the March 2020 ballot.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.