LAFCO Ignores Community Concerns and Approves Oak Creek Housing Development

On October 5, 2015 LAFCO unanimously supported the annexation
of the Homeland property into the city of Escondido.
  This action will allow a high-density, walled
development to be constructed on existing farmland and open space, adjacent to
Felicita Park.  It will result in the destruction of hundreds of oak trees and the rural character of our neighborhood.

There are many concerns Escondido Neighbors United raised
about this project and few of them were ever addressed.  Reasonable development alternatives and protective
mitigations put forth by the neighbors were rebuffed.   

The Commissioners negotiated a while over the inclusion of 565
feet of Hamilton Lane that will remain in the County while the rest of the
street will be in the City.  In the end,
Supervisor Horn tried to secure commitment by the city to maintain the road
(which makes sense) but others didn’t support him.  It leaves only about 5% of the Lane in the County jurisdiction (rest in the City) and no one really willing to maintain the road.

Commissioner Abed, unfortunately, once again took aim at
Escondido Neighbors United accusing us of opposing ‘all development everywhere
in Escondido’.  This is not true.   ENU had proposed more than one reasonable alternative
to this project and there are many developments we have not opposed in the city.

What is true is that we oppose (or try to improve) inappropriate
and poorly planned development—like Oak Creek.  

At the hearing, there seemed to be an inability to distinguish between theory
and common sense reality on several issues.

For example, while in theory, the County General Plan allows more dwelling
units on the site (80), in reality, only up to a maximum of 20 units or less
could actually be built there due to sewage constraints.  The County does not offer sewer hook-ups in
this area so any housing would have to be on septic (like the rest of the area)
or the developers would have to build an on-site sewage treatment plant that
would take up a lot of land. 

No matter what the theoretical number is for the area, in
reality only around 20 could be built under County rules therefore, i
n
reality Oak Creek is a significant increase in density enabled by the sewer
services of the city.

ENU
expressed the point that what we really have here is another case where
developers are merely shopping around to see which jurisdiction can give them
the highest density and easiest permitting.  This is not good planning.
As another example, annexations are not supposed to create
jurisdictional islands.  In theory, the Monticello
neighborhood is shown on the map as linked to the County– across I-15.  The reality is that there is no way to access
the neighborhood physically from County land after the annexation because I-15
cannot be crossed.  

In reality, the annexation leaves this neighborhood completely surrounded
by the City.  The reality of the new city
development is that it is surrounded by the County on all eight sides.  The only link is the width of Felicita
road.  This annexation leaves a jurisdictional mess in the area.

We were very disappointed when City staff told the Commission
that the project’s “Proposed
stormwater management design creates a better situation for downstream property
owners along Felicita Creek by moderating peak flows.”
  We beg to differ.  One of our highest concerns is that increasing
the hardscape of an area by around 60% and widening the culvert will worsen the
situation for us downstream.  It may stop
the flooding of the road, but only by directing the water into the creek and down on us. 

We will be ground-truthing this claim over time.   Everyone who lives along the creek, is
encouraged to take photos and video of the creek during the rains this winter
so we have a baseline to compare future conditions once the project is
constructed.
 

In the ‘needs-better-information’ category, one staffer represented the Chatham
Brothers Barrel Yard as being a location where they ‘made barrels’.  Apparently,
we need to do more education of governmental staff about the Chatham site.  (Chatham Brothers took barrels of toxic industrial waste to ‘recycle’ in a still that didn’t work and then let it flow into an on-site pond–polluting the groundwater for over a mile from the original site.  This pollution plagues us today). 

In
the end, LAFCO easily approved an annexation that does not meet LAFCO basic
goals of orderly development and preservation of open space and prime
agriculture lands, does not resolve County staff concerns related to the park, has
not resolved many community issues.
It
was a sad day for all of us and for our rural community.
It
is also a warning for other neighborhoods about the damage this City Council
can do to your neighborhood and quality of life.

We
look forward to supporting other communities in their struggle. 







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