In December 2016, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted new zoning for 71,300 acres of private “inholdings” within Cleveland National Forest boundaries. The results were acceptable, except for the town of Alpine, which remains a big question mark.

Because voter-controlled zoning was in effect via the Forest Conservation Initiative (FCI), these lands were not planned for during the historic 2011 General Plan Update. The initiative required 40-acre lots. Though strongly disputed by initiative backers, the County maintained that upon expiration, the zoning reverted back to what the FCI had replaced – truly disastrous estate lot subdivision.

As a result of the Board action, the majority of the lands were appropriately rezoned with more nuanced densities, as low as 1 unit per 80 acres, but also reflecting existing, smaller parcels. Even though EHL supported an environmentally superior alternative rather than what was ultimately adopted, our multi-year advocacy for lower densities due to fire hazard and habitat fragmentation improved the outcome. Outside of the town of Alpine, the total unit count is lower under the new plan than under FCI.

The process went badly astray in the town of Alpine, though, where a pro-development Community Planning Group gained influence over the process, and inserted the subdivision of fire-prone hillsides into draft maps. The Board elected to defer most of these issues, pending a study of infrastructure and service costs and a new community plan update. However, it did approve a major expansion of the Village portion of Alpine, which provides more than ample growth opportunity. In any event, the entirety of this new plan for the former FCI lands has already been challenged in court.

Otherwise, the County’s General Plan faces huge threats from many suburban sprawl projects proposed for rural and habitat lands. EHL will comment on these as well as on a related Climate Action Plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.