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SD Superior Court rules against massive housing development in Santee

Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 22:03:17-05

SANTEE, Calif. (KGTV) — The San Diego Superior Court has ruled against a massive housing project that could bring nearly 3,000 homes to Santee.

"This is a big victory for anyone in California who cares about the environment and wildfire," said Peter Broderick, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The center is one of the groups suing the city of Santee over the Fanita Ranch Development.

"Right now, they don't have a legally adequate Environmental Impact Report, which is required for them to move forward," said Broderick.

The community is designed to include up to 2,949 housing units with trails, a town center, an organic farm, and more. Santee city council approved the project in 2020.

However, the court's ruling found the developers, HomeFed, and the city did not adequately disclose how the project would affect wildfire evacuations and safety in surrounding communities.

"We're a little disappointed," said Jeff O'Connor, the Vice President of HomeFed.

O'Connor said their wildfire evacuation plan includes people moving out in zones to prevent congestion but said it needs more refining.

"The judge wanted more details and more modeling of exactly how that [evacuation] would occur," said O'Connor.

In 2003, the land was part of more than 200,000 acres that burned in the massive Cedar Fire. It's why former city councilman Stephen Houlahan was the only one to vote no on the project.

"It's a box canyon, and it's an incredibly dangerous place to have developed," said Houlahan.

Still, O'Connor said he intends to resubmit their wildfire plan in a couple of months and move forward with the development.

He noted the wildfire evacuation plan was the only item of the Environmental Impact Report that was found inadequate.

If the developer's revised plan gets approved, the project will still need the green light from voters in November.