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Encinitas neighbors fight development on Bonita Drive

10 homes planned for vacant lot
Posted at 8:05 AM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 12:05:02-05

ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) - People who live on Bonita Drive in Encinitas want the city to stop a 10-home development on their street. They say it will make the area more dangerous if a wildfire breaks out.

"It's a huge concern," says Sione Schad-Siebert. "When the fire starts, and Santa Ana winds blow, they move fast, and you need to get out fast."

Plans for the project call for 10 single-family homes to be built on a mostly empty 2.4-acre lot. People who live around it say adding the homes will allow fires to spread faster and cause more congestion on the street if people need to evacuate.

Schad-Siebert showed 10News parts of the street where the road narrows to just over the width of a couple of cars. She says fire engines can hardly get through as it is. She also worries that a nearby open-space nature trail could catch fire and decimate the neighborhood.

"If there's ever a fire in the canyon or if a house here catches on fire, the fire department will not get here in time to stop the fire from spreading through the neighborhood because of poor access," she says.

The City Planning Commission approved the project in November, but the residents have filed an appeal.

In the appeal, they list fire danger as one of six problems the new homes will bring to the area. Among the other claims are traffic issues, environmental concerns, and questions about ways they say the project skirted city rules during the approval process.

"I feel like the city's kind of losing its soul," says Schad-Siebert. "I feel it's selling out to developers from out of town that just want to make a lot of money."

Housing has been a problem in Encinitas, where city leaders have traditionally shunned large developments. Until 2019, it had been more than two decades since the city successfully submitted a housing and growth plan to the state. The mayor says that has to change.

As for the appeal, the Planning Department staff issued a 23-page memo refuting the claims point-by-point. It says the City Council should deny the appeal and move forward with the project.

Schad-Siebert says if that happens, she and her neighbors plan to file a lawsuit to stop the construction.

The Encinitas City Council will vote on the appeal at Wednesday night's meeting, which begins at 6 pm. They will also allow for public comment before voting.