Opponents of proposed housing development pack Santee council meeting

SANTEE, Calif. -- Santee residents who are against a nearly 3,000-home development showed up in force at Wednesday night's city council meeting.

A number of people who filled the room made it known they are against Fanita Ranch, where developers want to build homes on what is now about 2,600 acres of rolling hills.

“It would produce over 30,000 vehicle trips per day onto existing Santee streets, make the gridlock that we feel every day worse, so we think people should have a voice on whether or not they’re going to lose time with their family by sitting at more traffic lights,” said Van Collinsworth, who is opposed to the project.

Collinsworth has been fighting development on the acreage for about 25 years. He said other concerns are slower fire evacuations and losing the quality of life -- all reasons why he said more than 4,000 voters signed a petition to get an initiative that requires voter approval for high-density projects that do not comply with the city's general plan on the November ballot.

“The idea is if the developer does not want to respect our general plan then they will have to face the voters with their project,” Collinsworth said. 

Proponents of the development argue California has a housing crisis and growth is needed.

Jeff O'Conner, director of operations for Fanita Ranch's developing company, HomeFed Corporation, previously sent FOX 5 the following statement:

“The owners of Fanita Ranch, HomeFed Corporation, understand the traffic concerns the Santee residents have. HomeFed knows that in order to gain City Council approval to complete the master planned community we need to have a traffic solution, and we do!

“We are working with Caltrans to add a lane in state Route 52 westbound from Mast Boulevard to Interstate 15 and add a lane in the eastbound direction over the San Diego river bridge. This will increase the efficiency of SR-52 four times more than what Fanita Ranch will add to the freeway, thus making commute times less than they are today. You can get additional information about our community on our website.”

At Wednesday's meeting, after hearing from nearly 20 people for and against the development, a majority of the city council decided to do an economic impact analysis before residents vote on the initiative.

Since petitioners collected enough signatures, their initiative will go on the 2020 ballot if a special election is not held before then.