A consortium of conservation groups – EHL, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, and Laguna Greenbelt – have challenged Orange County’s approval of devastating development on the Rancho Mission Viejo (RMV) in Southern Orange County.

As approved by the Board of Supervisors, the project fragments the most intact habitat in the South Coast foothills, including the largest population of California gnatcatchers in the United States.  It also virtually forecloses a successful Natural Community Conservation Plan, or NCCP, that might have sited compatible development.  However, in its effort to accommodate the developer, the County of Orange over-reached and created fatal flaws under CEQA and other laws.  For example, a “development agreement” that ties the County’s hands is irreconcilable with the “programmatic” nature of the EIR, which anticipates future flexibility.

The San Francisco law firm of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger represents the conservation groups.  Strengthening our case is a complementary lawsuit filed by the neighboring City of Mission Viejo, which would be heavily impacted by traffic from the 14,000-unit development.