Map shows locations of the areas approved for development
Map shows location of the areas approved for development. Courtesy County News Center

Conservation organizations sued San Diego County and its board of supervisors Thursday for approving a Otay Ranch housing development.

The groups claim the development endangers wildlife and the community’s future residents.

Supervisors approved the project, known as Adara, last month on a 3-2 vote.

The Adara project lays out plans for construction of more than 1,000 homes and a commercial village core. It includes a school, fire station, sheriff’s office, vehicle charging stations and 700 acres of open space and parks.

Environmental groups contend that the location, between Chula Vista and Jamul, is home to endangered and protected species. They also argue it faces an exceptional risk for wildfires.

Plaintiffs include the Center for Biological Diversity, Preserve Wild Santee, the California Chaparral Institute  and the Sierra Club.

“Building houses in this fire-prone place will put people at risk, and it’ll wreak havoc on golden eagles and other wildlife,” said Peter Broderick, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “By approving this sprawl project, officials have put both homeowners and wildlife in danger. They’ve dealt a big setback to sustainable development in San Diego County.”

The plaintiffs referenced county data identifying “22 special-status plants and 28 special-status wildlife species” on the project site.

They also allege that the area is especially prone to wildfires. Supervisor Dianne Jacob noted the danger in her dissenting vote on the project.

The complaint states the area “has burned at least 17 times in the last 100 years” and is “at serious risk for fast-moving, wind-driven fires.”

The site’s steep terrain would make suppressing fires difficult, according to the plaintiffs. Homeowners would only have one evacuation route available.

Peter Andersen, chair of the Sierra Club’s San Diego Chapter, called the project “a fire trap that endangers all East County residents, contributes to severe traffic jams and destroys multiple species’ habitat.”

Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute said “History has shown that during a wind-driven wildfire, developments like this one in a known fire corridor can and have been destroyed by embers flying a mile or more ahead of the flame front. The claim that a development like this is fire safe ignores everything we have learned during the destructive 2017 and 2018 firestorms.”

– City News Service