A development project in Temecula was approved absent compliance with the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP), triggering EHL litigation.

The project, called Altair, affects one of the most important wildlife corridors in Southern California, the Santa Ana Mountains to Palomar Mountains linkage. This connection is particularly important for genetic interchange for the small mountain lion population in the Santa Ana Mountains. Interstate 15 is the main obstacle. While the crossing under the bridge at Temecula Creek would ideally provide connectivity, this location has been compromised by encroaching development and human use. In addition to addressing these problems, it will be necessary to create a second pathway under the freeway to the south.

As initially proposed, the housing project differed widely from what the Western Riverside County MSHCP called for and what the wildlife corridor needed. In such cases, the MSHCP allows for plan modification if the preserve system is “made whole” elsewhere. Instead, the City asserted plan compliance by saying that only total acres matter – not where those acres are located. This methodology attacks the entire basis for successful preserve assembly.

EHL and other stakeholders met repeatedly with project applicants and the City. At project hearings, EHL acknowledged important progress in making the proposed land uses less damaging and in committing funds to offsite properties that would help restore connectivity. But when the project was approved without taking more time to fix MSHCP compliance, EHL was compelled to file suit on CEQA grounds, as did other groups. We hope to work with all parties on resolutions. EHL is represented by the Law Offices of Abigail Smith.