Local growth measures on the November ballot

Your vote can send a message that permits responsible development

by Mike Kelly, President, Friend of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

n election day, Tuesday, November 5, high-profile decisions, such as who will be the next president, await the decision of the electorate. With media attention focussed on these issues, it's easy to overlook important local ballot issues that will determine the future of the north city "Future Urbanizing Area" (FUA).

The three propositions at issue are F, G and H. The recommendations, as voted by Board of Directors of the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon on August 20 are:

Prop. F - Vote NO (Villas at Stallion's Crossing)

Prop. G - Vote NO (Village at Stallion's Crossing)

Prop. H. - Vote YES (Torrey Highlands)

Background: Prop A

The three projects listed above are all contained within the Future Urbanizing Area. This 12,000-acre area is bounded by Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve to the south, Rancho Peñasquitos to the east, Carmel Valley to the west, and the San Dieguito River Valley's northern edge to the north.

Concerned with proposals for premature development in the area, the voters passed Proposition A in 1984. Prop A put this area off limits to urban development until the voters themselves judged the time was right for development. The ballot measure also required comprehensive planning for the area, including Subarea Plans for each of the FUA's five subareas. In other words, Prop A mandated that growth in the area should be planned and managed.

Prop. A, however, did allow developments without a vote if the planned densities were consistent with the underlying zoning of the parcels. Typically, undeveloped land in San Diego is zone A-1-10 or agricultural zoning. This means you can develop agriculturally related businesses or projects (nurseries, farms, equestrian centers, etc.) or build one housing unit per 10 acres. Existing law also allowed 2.5 units per 10 acres if the units were "clustered" in one area, with the remaining area left as open space.

The framework plan

In the early 1990s, a Citizens Advisory Committee for the FUA was formed. This broadly-based group spent several years developing a master plan for the FUA, called the Framework Plan. An environmental impact review was completed and the plan was approved by the City Council. This master plan envisioned urban levels of density comparable to the surrounding communities, with about 50 percent of the 12,000 acres to be set aside as permanent open-space parks.

With this completed, landowners and developers were free to come forward with more detailed subarea plans for each of the five subareas. Under Prop A, once these plans were complete, the landowners would be able to place a measure on the ballot requesting voter approval for a reclassification of their particular subarea from Future Urbanizing to Current Urbanizing. Upon receiving approval from the voters, they could then develop their projects.

In 1994, however, the larger landowners in the FUA, led by Pardee Co., got the City Council to place Proposition C on the ballot. If passed, this would have allowed a reclassification of the whole FUA - before Subarea Plans were done. The voters rejected it decisively.

After this defeat, some landowners decided to simply develop their land at lower densities that did not require a vote. The Black Mountain Ranch project in Subarea I north of Black Mountain did this with some of their land. Their golf course/estate home plan was approved by the City Council in 1994. Subarea V, which includes most of the undisturbed Del Mar Mesa, also decided to develop at lower densities. Their plan was approved by the City Council in July of this year. (About 63 percent of the land will be preserved as open space.)

Torrey Highlands - Subarea IV

Prop. H. - Vote Yes

The small- to medium-sized landowners of Subarea IV developed a Subarea Plan called Torrey Highlands. They involved many community and environmental groups in the planning process over the past year. The City Council voted to approve the final plan and to place a reclassification vote for Torrey Highlands on the ballot as Prop. H.

The Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon, the Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, the Rancho Peñasquitos Community Planning Board and many others support a Yes vote on Prop H. We feel the landowners complied with the spirit of Prop. A in developing their plan and produced a workable plan for the area. This plan protects and will enhance the key wildlife corridor for Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. This corridor will be a vital link from the Subarea V open space across the Del Mar Mesa to the Black Mountain open-space park to the north, helping protect our wildlife from isolation and decline.

Stallion's Crossing - Subarea II

Prop. F - Vote NO (Villas at Stallion's Crossing)

Prop. G - Vote NO (Village at Stallion's Crossing)

The two Subarea II ballot measure, Props F and G, the Villas and the Villages at Stallion's Crossing, however, don't deserve your support. These two projects come from Roy Collins' San Dieguito Partnership. Both would be situated in the San Dieguito River Valley, a highly sensitive environment and site of the River Valley Park. These projects were reluctantly placed on the ballot by the City Council as the result of a law suit filed by Collins.

For many years, this partnership has resisted the requirements of Prop A for comprehensive planning, refusing to cooperate with the other landowners in the Subarea or in the FUA. Finally, after years of litigation, the City settled by agreeing to place a reclassification vote for these two projects on the ballot. However, the City Council has not called for a YES vote on these projects. A NO vote will force the developer to cooperate with serious planning for this environmentally sensitive area. The Friends, the Sierra Club, the Carmel Valley Planning Board and many others are calling for a NO vote on these projects. They violate the spirit of Prop A and they would negatively impact the San Dieguito River Valley.