Team 10: Housing project called a death trap

Posted at 7:32 AM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 10:32:28-04

Residents in Valley Center spoke to Team 10, furious over a proposed development they say will put people at risk in the next wildfire.

The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the Lilac Hills Ranch project in mid-October. The project would add about 1,700 homes in the Valley Center area, east of Interstate 15.

However, some residents are calling it a death trap.

Dirk Jones, who has lived in the area for the past two years, says when the next fire hits, “people will die on the road” if the fire gets out of control.

“Can you imagine, 6,000 residents here, plus the current residents trying to get out?” Jones said. “My grandkids live up here, my kids. I don’t want any of my family to die because the elected officials are making irresponsible decisions.”

Josette Franck echoed those concerns.

“They want to jeopardize existing residents lives. They want to jeopardize the new residents lives,” Franck said.

The project has already been approved by the county planning commission.

It requires an amendment to the general plan because the area was zoned for just over 100 homes. Jones says if the development goes through, the county would have wasted millions of dollars on a plan they ultimately ignored.

“It defies logic. It’s infuriating!” Jones said.

However, a spokesperson for the developer Accretive Investments, disagrees. He called the project smart and efficient.

“It’s been approved and supported by the local Deer Springs fire district. It’s been approved and supported by former officials with Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service,” said spokesman Jeff Powers.

He gave Team 10 several prepared statements from various fire officials, praising the project.

“The Lilac Hills Ranch development meets or exceeds the state and local fire codes when it comes to fire protection and safety,” wrote Howard Windsor, retired fire chief with Cal Fire.

“This project is extremely well thought out and should be used as a model for fire safety and future development across the county of San Diego,” wrote Ron Woychak, President of FIREWISE 2000, Inc.

But it’s a fight far from over, according to residents upset with the project.

“They don’t care. They’re only in it for the money,” Franck said.

There could also be a potential conflict of interest with Supervisor Bill Horn. Horn has asked for advice from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission because he owns property where the project would be developed.  

A spokesperson with the FPPC said they did receive a letter from Horn. FPPC’s communication director Jay Wierenga said the legal division “attempts to provide advice letters in a timely manner,” typically 21 working days from when the request was made.

The board is scheduled to vote in mid-October.