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BIG BEAR LAKE AND LAKE ARROWHEAD:
STOPPING RUNAWAY DEVELOPMENT IN THE SAN BERNARDINOS

• In 2005 — working in a coalition with local allies the Friends of Fawnskin, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Sierra Club — the Center won a court case on a church development project in Running Springs when a judge agreed that the county had failed to consider the project’s impacts to the mountain habitat, the area’s wildlife and scenic beauty, and the effect of added growth. The court ordered the county to complete a more detailed assessment of these impacts and consider ways to minimize them before moving forward with the project.

• In June 2006, we helped block a large Big Bear Lake condominium development called Marina Point that would have imperiled bald eagles. A judge agreed with us and our local partners Friends of Fawnskin that the developers had repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act by illegally dredging and filling Big Bear Lake in moving forward with their condominium development, and that the condos, if built, would harm bald eagles in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The court halted all development of the project and ordered the developer to pay a fine of $1,312,500, also commanding the developer to immediately repair and restore the damaged shoreline of Big Bear Lake and its adjacent wetlands.

• In September 2006, we successfully blocked a development in Arrowhead Springs that would have destroyed a natural stream in Waterman Canyon, replacing it with a golf course, artificial water features, and mass-built luxury housing. A judge specifically ruled that project documents failed to provide sufficient evidence in support of two claims made by the developer: that the project’s proposed golf course would provide flood protection and that the golf course was economically necessary.

• In December 2006, we won another victory when a San Bernardino County judge overturned the approval of a proposed mountain subdivision, ruling that the county’s General Plan was “unambiguous” in its requirement that a fire evacuation route be completed before approvals could be granted for area projects. The subdivision, known as Blue Ridge Estates or the Hawarden Development, was planned for an area of the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead that is considered at high risk for fire and was very near the areas burned by the catastrophic Old Fire in 2003. Almost two years after our San Bernardino County court victory, California’s Fourth District Appeals Court affirmed the original decision that the county had violated state law in approving the development.

• In May 2007, our coalition stopped the building of the Big Bear Lake Hilton Garden Inn, planned near the lakeshore in the city of Big Bear Lake, on the grounds that it would destroy wetlands and endangered plants like the rare, well-named bird-footed checkerbloom — as well as pose a danger to human health through inadequate plans for fire evacuation.

• In 2013, the Center, Friends of Fawnskin, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Sierra Club reached an agreement with  Talmadge Partners LP, a developer planning a subdivision in Big Bear Lake, that would protect endangered plants while still allowing houses to be built. s a result of the agreement, the proposed project, near Talmadge Road in Big Bear Lake, has been reduced in size from its original proposal (from 26 lots to 23) in order to permanently preserve several acres of unique “pebble plains” plant habitat. The agreement also provides for a buffer between the project and adjacent national forest land; limitations on the project’s light pollution; and the protection of important water flows through the project site. Species that will be helped by the agreement include the Southern Mountain buckwheat, ashy gray paintbrush, San Bernardino butterweed and cottony clay flower.

Big Bear Lake photo © iStockphotos.com/
Paul Erikson