The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside Ballot Initiative Is Critical to RSF's Future

Are you concerned about traffic, sprawl, density changes and wildfire evacuations? Would you like a say in the future development of Rancho Santa Fe? Or would you rather let three politicians and speculators decide the future of this community?

San Diegans for Managed Growth, along with many volunteers from various unincorporated areas around San Diego County, is currently collecting signatures for the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside (SOS) ballot initiative. SOS will help protect the residents of communities like the Ranch by giving taxpayers a chance to vote when developers want to drastically change existing density in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

Windfalls for developers at tax-payers expense

Currently, only the Board of Supervisors decides on these potentially devastating density changes, known as General Plan Amendments (GPAs). The building industry contributes heavily to the Supervisors' campaigns and then only needs three (out of five) votes to make massive density changes resulting in HUGE windfalls for developers - while taxpayers foot the bill for lagging infrastructure and suffer from increased traffic congestion, wildfire evacuation nightmares and overcrowded schools.

xx-99-county-plan.pngSource: San Diego County's General Plan Land Use Map, 2011
San Diego County has a General Plan that allows for smart growth and designates areas that already have a "green light" for immediate development. It took 13 years, $18 million, and the input of many stakeholders to create this plan. Those projects should be built first and are the best way to address San Diego's affordable housing shortage. The SOS Initiative does not impact development proposals that are pre-approved in the San Diego General Plan.

SOS has broad appeal to taxpayers, who recognize that this initiative simply adds a fairly standard layer of protection for residents. Nearly all of our surrounding cities are already protected by similar legislation. Encinitas, Escondido and the City of San Diego already require a majority vote by residents on GPAs, and the City of Oceanside is currently pursuing a similar initiative. Only the "backcountry" unincorporated areas (including Rancho Santa Fe) remain unprotected. SOS will close that loophole.

Rancho Santa Fe remains unprotected

While the Covenant has restrictions on density increases, Rancho Librado, on the northeast corner of Via De La Valle and Calzada del Bosque, is listed as a GPA "In Process" under the project list released by the County as part of the Climate Action Plan on Feb 14, 2018. Quantum Estates II Villas of Rancho Santa Fe, near the corner of Camino del Norte and Del Dios Highway, and the proposed Sahm Family Foundation Del Dios Ranch project are two more projects to watch. These three projects would bring 180 new homes to Rancho Santa Fe if built as planned, which translates to over 2,100 Average Daily Trips (ADTs) on the roads of the Ranch, and a commensurate potential increase in school population.

Even GPAs outside of the Ranch in other unincorporated areas will impact traffic and safety issues in the community, for example, a potential egress for Harmony Grove Village South (453 homes) on to Del Dios. A number of GPAs in Harmony Grove, predicted to clog the existing road infrastructure, could lead to East-West traffic diverting on to Del Dios through the village.

Not surprisingly, the building industry opposes the initiative, likes to call supporters NIMBYS (Not In My Back Yard) and claims that this initiative will stand in the way of their efforts to help the homeless and provide affordable housing.

Follow the money in conspicuous zoning changes

The truth is opponents in the building industry are worried that SOS will complicate a current source of massive windfalls. A few mostly out-of-state investors purchase or option low-density or agricultural land in rural areas, typically in very high-fire-risk areas, which is why they are not zoned for high-density housing. These speculators then donate to the Supervisors' campaigns while pursuing General Plan Amendments to change the zoning, claiming "property rights". With three votes they've made millions on their gambles, while neighbors and residents are the ones left getting burned, figuratively and literally. And our property rights get trampled in the process.

SOS provides a long-term solution protecting taxpayers and residents. This initiative is about smart growth, growing by the plan, infrastructure before development, and giving taxpayers a vote on the future of their neighborhoods and the safety of their families. If you are a registered voter anywhere in San Diego County, please sign the SOS Petition! Look for signature gatherers around town. Dates and locations will be posted on RSF Post.

We need to gather 110,000 signatures by mid-May, a massive effort which takes paid circulators. Please consider either volunteering to gather signatures, and/or donating to defray the cost. Donations can be made at www.saveoursdcountryside.org, where you can also read the full text of the petition. If you would like to help with the signature gathering or fundraising effort contact: gigi@culturaledge.net.