In March, there are two important ballot measures regarding land use in San Diego County. One is Measure B, the Newland Sierra development in North County (Vote  NO), and the other is Measure A, Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside (SOS), a countywide measure (Vote YES).


The proposed Newland Sierra project, located north of San Marcos, and west of I-15, proposes 2,125 dwelling units in the southern half of a 2,000-acre project area. The project area contains one of the largest intact wildlife and plant habitat blocks west of I-15; this is a core habitat area under the draft North County Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) and is also a critical conservation corridor for wildlife (Newland Sierra FEIR).

None of the units are affordable; most would be above $500,000 with some around $400,000. According to the City of San Diego’s housing resources website, ‘affordable housing’ for a low income family, a house would be $225,000 or less. Newland Sierra says 700 of the 2,135 homes would cost under $500,000, but none as low as $300,000 (City of San Diego; KPBS, June 29, 2018).

Impacts on local communities from this 10-year project include blasting for a total of 225 days as part of grading (Newland Sierra FEIR, Appendix G-Air Quality report).

95% of the project area is undisturbed chaparral and coastal sage scrub. Impacts to wildlife habitat within the project area include loss of most of the occupied gnatcatcher habitat; the proposed off-site mitigation is in Ramona, which is far from the project area and does nothing to mitigate the local gnatcatcher population (Newland Sierra FEIR).

Fragmentation of this currently intact habitat will also limit the ability of wildlife to traverse to nearby blocks of habitat and in addition, preclude the ability of wildlife to access a key culvert under I-15 which currently allows movement to open space east of I-15, thus isolating important wildlife habitat west of I-15 from that east of I-15 (Newland Sierra FEIR).

The potential cumulative indirect project impacts would be significant- in recent years many other developments have sprung up along the I-15 and SR-76 corridors and at the rural edges of San Marcos, Vista, and Escondido.

The project will also impact climate change reduction efforts because it authorizes to use Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions offsets from outside San Diego County, which is inconsistent with the County General Plans’ requirement to achieve GHG reductions in the county (Newland Sierra FEIR).

And finally, Newland Sierra is located in the highest fire risk zone in San Diego County- ‘Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.” Locating development projects in such high risk fire areas is simply irresponsible and dangerous (Newland Sierra FEIR).


Measure A (SOS) (Vote YES) would require a vote of registered voters in San Diego County for any change to the County General Plan, thus preventing large, new developments from proceeding in rural, backcountry and agricultural areas without acquiring voter approval first.

The County General Plan was approved in 2011 after 18 years of participation by community members and stakeholders throughout San Diego; this created the blueprint for how the county will grow into the future. Currently there are 60,000 lots approved for new housing near schools, services and infrastructure.  The state housing agency has certified that the General Plan has allowed for enough housing for all income levels.

However, developers continuously push for General Plan Amendments (GPAs) to allow them to build large projects in places such as high-risk fire-prone areas and places far from transit, exacerbating the traffic problem. Since the General Plan was adopted, the County Board of Supervisors has approved five of these ‘sprawl’ housing projects via GPAs, and in addition, the county has not required any affordable housing to be included in these plans.

Measure A would affect only development that proposes increasing residential density in rural areas outside city or county village boundaries. Measure A will not affect projects that meet state standards for affordable housing.

To ensure that the General Plan is followed, let’s make developers bring their projects to the voters, not just the supervisors. Vote Yes on Measure A.

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