For Immediate Release, November 6, 2008
John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416
Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee, (619) 258 7929
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League, (213) 804-2750
Court Rules Against Fanita Ranch; Santee Project's Future Uncertain
SAN DIEGO— A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled today that the sprawling Fanita Ranch project proposed on the city of Santee’s northern edge violated state law by failing to deal adequately with the fire-safety risks posed by the project.
The Fanita Ranch project is a 1,400-unit, 2,600-acre development with a long and controversial history. Previous efforts to develop the rugged site, which provides habitat for the threatened California gnatcatcher and endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly, have failed. The City approved the current project last December, but concerns over the project’s environmental and public-safety consequences prompted the Center for Biological Diversity, Preserve Wild Santee, and Endangered Habitats League to file a lawsuit in January challenging the project.
Today’s ruling addresses the problem posed by a sprawling residential development located in a wildlands area subject to frequent and severe wildfires. The project originally called for the site’s fire-prone vegetation to be managed by controlled burning, which can be harmful to native chaparral and other vegetation types. The City omitted the controlled burning requirement when it approved Fanita Ranch, but never considered redesigning the project or adopting other measures that would alleviate the incompatible mix of development and surrounding vegetation that would fuel wildfires.
“The fire-safety problems identified in the court’s ruling go to the heart of what is wrong with Fanita Ranch,” said Van Collinsworth, executive director of Preserve Wild Santee. “The region’s recent history with wildfires makes clear that Santee made the wrong decision by approving the project.”
In light of today’s ruling, the court will rule on the fate of the project in a future decision.
“The fire-safety issue can only be fixed if the City reverses its approval of Fanita Ranch and reconsiders the design unencumbered by any preconceived notions,” said John Buse, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fire safety for Fanita Ranch requires fundamental changes to the project.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.