San Diego County Board of Supervisors to vote on region's first solar-powered community

Posted at 10:08 PM, Sep 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 12:08:02-04

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (KGTV) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on a first-of-its-kind housing development in the North County.

On Wednesday morning, opponents and supporters are expected to pack a meeting to share their thoughts on the proposed community known as Newland Sierra. San Diego County's first carbon neutral community would be built just west of Interstate 15 and Deer Springs Road in the Twin Oaks Valley, on the border with San Marcos.

Erin Veit and her family live on eight acres on a remote hilltop. Their landscape would drastically change if the project is approved.

"It's going to cause gridlock on the 15. It's going to cause gridlock on San Marcos service streets and Vista service streets. It's going to cause massive overcrowding at San Marcos schools," said Veit.

Newland Sierra Developers want to build 2,100 homes on 2,000 acres of undeveloped land.

"Environmental stewardship is one of our company's highest priorities," said Rita Brandin, Senior Vice President and Development Director at Newland. "Now, we're taking this commitment to new heights by creating a community that will have a net zero emissions footprint. We believe that Sierra will become the new green standard for sustainable communities in San Diego County."

The project also features 19 miles of multi-use trails, bike paths and pathways, 36 acres of community and neighborhood parks, and a retail center of 81,000 square feet that includes a grocery store.

Neighbors say the project will destroy the character of their community without putting a dent in the housing crisis. They also worry about the impact to the wildlife and natural habitat in the Merriam Mountains.

Steven Scriven and his wife passed out fliers to motorists off I-15 near Deer Springs Road urging the supervisors to vote no on the project.

"What I'm concerned about is the cost of housing that they keep building. Everything is so high, right off the bat, that there's just nothing for us to buy in our price range," said Steven Scriven.

The property is currently zoned for 99 homes, plus 2 million square feet of office and commercial space -- that's almost the size of two Westfield North County malls.

"We believe that San Diego needs more homes to address our housing shortage than more office space and commercial space. That's why we are asking for a general plan amendment to build less office/commercial, and more housing," said Darren Pudgil, spokesman for the developer.

According to a study by the California Association of Realtors, only roughly 28 percent of San Diego County families can afford a median-priced home.

The Newland Sierra homes will start in the high $300,000 range and include seven different communities.

The president of San Diego's Building Industry Association said the opposition is not based on facts.

"All driven by hysteria and very high-end attorneys who are throwing down legal threats one after another," said Borre Winckel, President & Chief Executive Officer of BIA San Diego.

Attorneys for the Golden Door Spa, a luxury resort near the proposed development, are fighting the project. No one from the spa was available for comment Tuesday night.

"We've got this fantasy island spa … getting the public all riled up and they are using every law in California, all those laws and regulations that have led to the housing crisis," said Winckel.

Winckel said the developers face an uphill battle in the form of lawsuits and ballot initiatives.

"That project will be sued the day it's approved. That project will be subject to referendum the day it is approved, and that is the problem," said Winckel.

The developers are optimistic.

"Backed by dozens of North County neighbors who will speak in support of our project, we look forward to presenting our plan to the Board of Supervisors tomorrow. The region's first carbon-neutral community, Newland Sierra will deliver a wide array of new homes to address San Diego County's housing crisis, while preserving 61% of the property as permanent open space," said Brandin.