For Immediate Release, August 27, 2009
Contact: John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416
Second Suit Filed to Preserve Fanita Ranch -- City of Santee Still Unclear on Fire-safety Concept
SAN DIEGO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Preserve Wild Santee, and the Endangered Habitats League today renewed their legal challenge to the sprawling Fanita Ranch project that would be located on the northern edge of the City of Santee. The suit is the second filed by the groups in opposition to the Fanita Ranch development, which would place about 1,400 homes on the 2,600-acre site in a dispersed, low-density design that maximizes habitat loss and the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
“Unfortunately, the city simply reaffirmed its earlier decision – the same decision that the court previously found unlawful,” said John Buse, senior staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These superficial revisions don’t meet the requirements of the law, and the Fanita Ranch project remains highly susceptible to catastrophic wildfires.”
As a result of the groups’ earlier lawsuit, a San Diego court found that the city of Santee had not adequately considered the project’s fire-safety risk and ordered the city to re-evaluate the issue. On July 22, 2009, the city approved a revised analysis, changing little from the earlier version. This latest analysis is the subject of the new lawsuit.
The Fanita Ranch project faces other hurdles as well. The site’s owner, Fanita Ranch, L.P., faces foreclosure on debts that exceed the value of the property, as determined by an October 2008 appraisal prepared for one of the creditors. With no equity in the project, the developer may not be capable of commencing construction, and with the severe decline in the region’s real-estate market, it is likely that the project approved by the city is no longer feasible.
“At this point, the city of Santee appears to be the project’s only advocate, but this support is a losing proposition – both environmentally and fiscally,” Buse said.
The groups believe that, with the Fanita Ranch project’s intractable environmental and public-safety problems, and given the infeasibility of the project, the best fate for the site is permanent protection as natural open space.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 225,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.