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Newland Sierra promises to prioritize first-responders for new homes

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Posted at 5:22 PM, Dec 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 21:17:45-05

(KGTV) - The developer of the proposed Newland Sierra project is promising to prioritize 500 new homes to first responders, military, veterans and teachers.

The commitment was enough to earn the controversial development the endorsement of San Diego Police Officers Association on Monday.

It's the third major public safety organization to endorse the plan, which heads to voters countywide in March. CalFire Local 2881 and the San Diego County Deputy Sheriff's Association are already backing the project.

"Projects like this that are building those middle-income houses, especially the ones that prioritize us, we're going to support them," said Jack Schaeffer, president of the Police Officers Association.

Newland Sierra calls for 2,135 new homes in supply starved San Diego County. The County Board of Supervisors approved the project in September 2018, but a group of nearby residents and the Golden Door Spa nearby gathered enough signatures to send it to a countywide vote.

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"There could have been ways that things could have been worked out with Newland, but they basically wanted to build this entire new community the size of Del Mar without taking into account any of the surrounding residents," said Christopher Garrett, the attorney representing No on Newland Sierra.

On Monday, Newland Sierra announced that it has made a commitment to first responders, military, veterans and teachers in writing. It recorded a covenant on its land deed that requires about 500 of its moderately priced homes to be prioritized for people in those roles.

"It places a legally binding covenant on the property," said Devonna Almagro, a spokeswoman for the project.

But Garrett called that an empty promise. He said it's only enforceable by the public and government if it's in the resolution that the county Board of Supervisors approved, which is heading to voters.

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"There's nothing in the ballot question that says homes restricted to police officers," Garrett said. "There's nothing in the ballot language that the Board of Supervisors approved a couple weeks that says the homes have to be restricted to affordable housing, nothing like that."

Newland Sierra also recorded covenants requiring 1,300 homes be priced for middle-income earners, and another 210 reserved for low-income households.

Mark Dillon, an attorney representing Newland Sierra, said the covenants are, in fact, legally binding.

"It’s a recorded document and it is now a restriction on the property," he said. "We can't just amend over it."

The covenant will last for 10 years, as long as the project moves forward.