Sierra Club North County Group and over 40 local community, tribal, climate, labor, environmental justice, and conservation organizations submitted a letter to the Escondido City Council outlining milestones that should be achieved prior to the city moving forward with any consideration of Harvest Hills.
In the letter, the group outlines significant policy conflicts between the proposed project, San Diego County, and Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) policies, fire disaster prevention, and formalized and proposed habitat plans. LAFCO is the entity which must approve annexations and Sphere-of-Influence expansions, both required for this project.
An overview of the project can be seen on this 2-minute video.
Harvest Hills proposes to radically expand the wildland/urban interface and, if constructed, would threaten local and on-site residents and the world-famous Safari Park in the event of fire.
Local organizations have fought this project for several years. In the three years since the DEIR comment period was closed, several important actions have not been taken and new policies and more visible realities have worsened the prospects of this project. Locating sprawl development in a Very High Fire Severity Zone is increasingly being opposed by local residents, transit and climate activists, and the California Attorney General. Further, new policies of the Local Area Formation Commission have elevated the need to protect open spaces, especially where sensitive wildlife is present.
The undersigned organizations urge the City to require the following actions prior to advancing the CEQA review and rendering a decision on the project at the City:
- The Annexation Agreement needed to proceed with LAFCO Sphere of Influence and annexation decisions is fully executed;
- A favorable position for the project has been adopted by the County of San Diego demonstrating that incompatibilities are resolved;
- A full and detailed economic impact analysis is completed which makes transparent to existing residents and taxpayers the unfunded costs of this project, including an analysis of fiscal impact of a partially completed project; and,
- The new City Manager is installed at the City.