Residents still hope to block controversial North County development

SAN MARCOS, Calif. -- A committee opposed to a controversial 2,100-unit housing project in the North County has started gathering signatures for a March 2020 ballot referendum asking voters to overturn the development's approval.

"When politicians put bad decisions into law, like allowing the Newland Sierra Project to be built, the people have few options. One of them is the referendum process," said the Committee Against Newland Sierra and Bad Development in a release about the new strategy. The group has 30 days to collect enough signatures to qualify for the March 2020 ballot.

“The people of San Diego can vote to decide our future, to decide how we will grow – and what we really think about more traffic,” Susan Baldwin said in the release.  “You’ll see our signature gatherers all over the County starting today, in front of grocery stores and other businesses. Please stop and sign.”

Board approves project amid heated debate

The Newland Sierra housing project is proposed for about 2,000 acres of undeveloped land just west of Interstate 15 and Deer Springs Road in the Twin Oaks Valley just north of San Marcos. The developers were asking the supervisors for a variance to the county master plan to allow higher density housing on that land.

The supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of the variance, with one supervisor, Diane Jacobs, absent. The board amended several provisions in the county general plan to make way for the project.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the controversial 2,100-unit housing project in the North County Wednesday.

The proposed development is in an area noted for wildlife and a tranquil ambience.

Once completed on the 1,985-acre site, Newland Sierra will feature 2,135 homes, 81,000 square feet of commercial space, a six-acre school site, 35.87 acres of public and private parks, 19.2 miles of multi-use community trails, an equestrian staging area and 1,209 acres of open space.

The project also will include numerous eco-friendly features, including solar panels, electric-vehicle charging stations, xeriscaping and gray-water systems, according to the developers.

The Sierra Club and Golden Door Spa, a luxury resort located adjacent to the proposed project site, have sued the county over its plan to allow the developers to buy carbon offset outside the county to cancel out new tail-pipe emissions. But the supervisors voted to move ahead with the project even as that case continues to play out in court.

Supporters and opponents of the Newland Sierra project spoke at a fiery public hearing prior to the vote. Area residents opposed to the development listed possible harm to the area's fragile habitat and rural character, increased traffic, noise concerns, lack of water, traffic congestion and school overcrowding among reasons they disapprove of the project.

“It’s hard to see the place that I grew up in, and that I love, to basically be turned into track homes,” said Anna Rosvall a resident of Twin Oaks community. 

But supporters said the city is in desperate need of more housing. "If we see something that's overpowering and it's a crisis -- and that's housing -- we've got to take that into consideration," said Supervisor Ron Roberts. "We're not trying to destroy anything. What we have done here, I think, in terms of preserving open space, is terribly significant."

“It feels really good, the fact that we can do what we do best, and that’s create amazing communities with amenities and parks and trails where families can live in ways that matter most to them,” said Rita Brandin senior Vice President of Newland Sierra homes.