EHL files suit against Otay Ranch development 

Due to its effects on endangered species and the golden eagle, inconsistency with the regional habitat plan, and extraordinary fire hazard, EHL has sued the County of San Diego.

On June 26, 2019. the Board of Supervisors narrowly voted 3:2 to give final approval to the Otay Ranch Village 14 project east of Chula Vista. It had gained an initial approval way back in 1992, over EHL’s opposition. Despite its severe fragmenting of habitat, it was later grandfathered into the Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) albeit with important conditions. These conditions have not been fulfilled and MSCP compliance is missing.

New information has shown that the project will eliminate one of the five golden eagle nesting territories assumed to be conserved in the MSCP. It is also located in the middle of a core population of the highly endangered quino checkerspot butterfly, which is not one of the species covered by the MSCP. Remarkably – or perhaps not so remarkably – the project’s environmental impacts report contends that, despite numerous sitings, quino don’t even live on the property.

The site has burned in wildfires twice in the last 15 years. It will burn again. Yet, the Board’s approval showed that the majority has not learned from the loss of life in the 2017 and 2018 fire tragedies. We know that warning systems and evacuations fail when fast-moving wildfire overtakes a community. Home burned whether or not built to new construction codes. The only way to prevent further loss of life is to stop building in the most dangerous locations, such as this particular site. 

The evacuation studies done for the project are deeply flawed and ignore the surrounding community of Jamul, whose existing residents may need to evacuate along the same route. While a catastrophe in the making, the expensive housing provided would not help fix any of the region’s housing deficits.

The project also uses the same spurious greenhouse gas mitigation measures – “carbon offsets” in foreign countries – that a judge ruled illegal in another lawsuit. For these reasons and more, EHL retained numerous experts to review the project, submitted compelling comments, and organized public testimony.

Faced with the Board’s decision, EHL has filed litigation under CEQA and General Plan grounds. Joined by the California Native Plant Society, we are represented by the firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. Four other conservation groups also filed lawsuits.

Even as the litigation moves forward, EHL will, as always, seek constructive solutions.