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San Diego County supervisors vote to oppose Chula Vista project annexation

City of Chula Vista
Posted at 8:42 AM, Mar 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 11:54:18-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Voicing concerns over public safety and fire protection, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Wednesday adopted a resolution opposing the proposed annexation of a housing development into the city of Chula Vista.

Located a quarter-mile east of Chula Vista city limits, Otay Ranch Village 13 sits on 1,869 acres of unincorporated land.

In November 2020, supervisors approved the project, which will feature 1,938 homes, public and private parks, community trails and pathways, 860 acres of open space, a fire station and sheriff's substation.

Otay Ranch Village 13 also includes a 16-acre resort site with a 200-room hotel with outdoor plazas, and conference areas.

According to the county, the project will be built out over the next eight to 10 years, in response to market demands.

In late September, property owners Baldwin and Sons and Moller Otay Lakes Investments submitted an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission to consider annexing the land into the city of Chula Vista.

In November, the Chula Vista City Council voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution supporting the annexation, which was opposed by Chula Vista Firefighters Union, Cal Fire Union 2881 and Deputy Sheriff's Association.

According to information on the board meeting agenda, county officials expressed concern the annexation would mean public safety stations "will not be built and levels of service will be impacted."

County officials also argued that because the proposed annexation area is not contiguous with existing city boundaries, it would "create a city of Chula Vista island in the unincorporated area of the county of San Diego."

Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond, who are also San Diego County LAFCO commission members -- with Desmond serving as chairman -- recused themselves from Wednesday's 3-0 vote and left the meeting chamber.

LAFCOs are political subdivisions responsible for providing regional growth management services for California's 58 counties, and are made up of locally elected and appointed officials.

Other San Diego LAFCO members include Supervisor Nora Vargas, who serves as an alternate member and Stephen Whitburn, a San Diego City Council member who serves as vice chairman.

Nick Lee, a Baldwin and Sons executive, asked supervisors to continue the matter. He said there is no proposal to remove fire or sheriff's stations, and wanted to discuss the issue further with county leaders before LAFCO reviews it.

"As with most land use issues, there's a long process and we're only at the beginning here," Lee added.

Tony Mecham, Cal Fire unit chief, said if the annexation went through, there would be no guarantee that a fire station would be built as part of Village 13, and surrounding communities are already underserved.

Mecham added the proposed annexation would result in project revenue going solely to the city of Chula Vista, while the county would still be responsible for battling wildland fires.

A San Diego County Sheriff's Department official said a lack of revenue would affect law enforcement's ability to protect nearby communities.

Patrick Walker, vice president with Cal Fire Local 2881, said his union is opposed to the annexation but not the development itself.

Board Chairwoman Nora Vargas, in whose district the project sits, pulled the item for discussion.

Vargas said while she understands the developers' request and the need for more housing, "this is a very high-fire zone."

"I'm not sure at this time that is something I can support," Vargas added.

Her colleague Nathan Fletcher criticized the developers for wanting a continuance now, rather than earlier.

"This isn't a question of whether housing is gonna get built or not get built -- it's gonna get built," Fletcher said, adding jurisdiction and public safety response are the main issues.

Developers "started this process a year ago without coming to talk to us," Fletcher said.