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For Immediate Release, April 22, 2010

Contact:  Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5309
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081

Groups Challenge Mega-development Sprawl in Rural Riverside County
Global Warming Nightmare Would Threaten Adjacent Wildlife Area

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society filed suit today challenging the County of Riverside’s approval of the Villages of Lakeview, a massive development of 11,350 residential units and 500,000 square feet of commercial space in a remote area bordering the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The sprawling mega-development would require long automobile commutes on already congested roads, worsening the region’s air quality and generating more than 175,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. It would destroy occupied habitat for many threatened and endangered species and threaten one of the region’s most important wildlife sanctuaries – the San Jacinto Wildlife Area.

“Putting this many houses this far from jobs will make it harder for California to meet its greenhouse gas-reduction commitments and further worsen traffic congestion and air quality in the region,” said Matt Vespa, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need smart growth and livable communities, not dumb growth miles from jobs.”

The lawsuit is one of a series of court challenges brought by the Center to reduce greenhouse gases from new development through the California Environmental Quality Act. The Act mandates that where an environmental impact is determined to be significant, all feasible mitigation measures and alternatives must be adopted to substantially lessen the impact. By basing the project’s “determination of significance” on a comparison with a hypothetical business-as-usual development, the County understated the impacts of the project. The California Natural Resources Agency has cautioned against this type of analysis, while the California Supreme Court recently struck down a similar hypothetical comparison on the grounds that it misled the public.

The project also poses a grave threat to imperiled wildlife on the project site and in the adjacent San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The San Jacinto Valley is a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot that is host to more than 300 resident and migratory birds, including the burrowing owl, California gnatcatcher, and yellow-billed cuckoo.

“It’s really the pillages of Lakeview, creating ugly smog-filled sprawl and destroying one of Southern California’s largest wetland and wildlife areas,” said Drew Feldmann of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “The San Jacinto Valley and Mystic Lake are biodiversity gems that must be protected. The County chose the needs of a few billionaire builders over the ordinary residents who live there and the visitors who go there from all over to see its beauties.”

A separate lawsuit was also filed by the Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley and Sierra Club against the County of Riverside, citing concerns about the impacts Villages of Lakeview would have on regional planning, air quality, traffic, and wildlife.

Learn more about the Center’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.  

The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society is a California nonprofit conservation organization with approximately 2,000 members within the Inland Empire of Southern California who are dedicated protecting the region’s natural heritage.


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