The Board of Supervisors adopted a weakened but still enormously improved new General Plan – but immediately voted to consider amendments in 3 months.

The old General Plan was legally deficient, and called for what is left of the San Diego countryside to be carved into estate lots for long distance commuters. The new General Plan, 13 years in the making, began with strong planning principles that arose from the stakeholder advisory group of which EHL was a key member. As the land use map reached the Board of Supervisors, however, it was compromised by scores of higher density exceptions made at the behest of property owners, largely in North County communities like Bonsall, Valley Center, and San Dieguito.

The end result was adopted on a 4:1 vote over the continued objections of "property rights" advocates and some real estate interests, and we commend the Board for resisting these calls to throw out good planning. While not meeting all our goals, the new plan substantially achieves the overarching objective of shifting growth out of the “backcountry” into more westerly towns and villages, thus maintaining ranch, farm, and habitat lands, and reducing fire hazard. (Click here for map.) The new plan eliminates hundreds of miles of previously planned roads, with huge taxpayer savings. An innovative “Conservation Subdivision Program” was also adopted that “clusters” rural subdivisions in the least sensitive locations rather than dispersing each lot. Another highpoint is a pilot program for agricultural conservation easements.

On the negative side, besides the last minute map changes, important policies to protect the plan from future piecemeal amendment by leapfrog development were removed. Indeed, three such proposals are pending, each of which would bust open the population targets each community had previously accepted in good faith.

In a disconcerting action, taken immediately after adoption of the new plan on a 3:2 vote, the Board of Supervisors scheduled a workshop for November 2011 at which time they will again consider amending the new plan to increase density at the behest of a selection of property owners. While the motion was made with the stated intent of not undermining the plan, this nevertheless poses a grave peril to the integrity of the planning process.