Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 25, 2018

Contact:  Aruna Prabhala, Center for Biological Diversity, (408) 691-6272,  
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitat League, (213) 804-2750,  

Lawsuit Challenges Habitat-destroying Sprawl Development in San Diego County

Isolated Newland Sierra Project Poses High Wildfire Risk

SAN DIEGO— Conservation organizations sued San Diego County today for approving the Newland Sierra development. Located in a very high-severity fire hazard zone, the project poses significant threats to the community and wildlife. It will also add more than 1 million metric tons of greenhouse pollution over project’s lifetime.

“The county’s reckless approval of this destructive development will sacrifice the safety of local communities and harm our wildlife,” said Aruna Prabhala, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands program. “This leapfrog development will destroy crucial animal habitat and put thousands of new residents in the heart of wildfire country while making evacuation more difficult for everyone else. That’s just unacceptable.”

The proposed development would urbanize a rural area of northern San Diego County by building 2,135 new homes and 81,000 square feet of commercial space. The project site is located in some of the last remaining high-quality core habitat in the Merriam Mountains, which provides critical habitat and key corridors for the federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher as well as mountain lions and bobcats. Currently the project site contains diverse and sensitive plant communities, including coastal sage scrub, chaparral and oak woodlands.  

“The Newland Sierra project cuts off wildlife movement and reduces a vital habitat area to the point that it won’t function anymore,” said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League. “This is not compatible with a successful conservation plan for San Diego’s beautiful North County.”

The environmental review for the destructive development violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to fully analyze the project’s likely environmental harms and refusing to adequately mitigate those harms. For example, the project relies on dubious and uncertain carbon offsets to reduce the development’s climate impact rather than making on-site changes to the project. The project also calls for an amendment to the county’s long-standing Resource Protection Ordinance that will allow the developer to destroy wetlands without doing any mitigation.

Today’s lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Endangered Habitats League in San Diego County Superior Court.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Endangered Habitats League is a Southern California regional conservation group dedicated to ecosystem protection and sustainable land use.

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