Wildfire threat becomes tool to fight home builders

Preston Brown saw the danger of wildfires coming from living in the rural, chaparral-lined hills of San Diego County. He lived there for 21 years and was released twice.

That’s why he strongly opposed the plan to build more than 1,100 homes in the area where the fire would burn, saying it would be difficult to leave safely. Brown sat on the local planning committee and said new people would replace the road.

“It’s a really bad place,” Brown said. “We have fires now.”

Opponents such as Brown, a member of the Sierra Club and the California Native Plant Society, won last year. The California court ruled in favor of a coalition of community groups and blocked a plan by the developer called Otay Village 14 that has single -family homes and commercial properties. The groups argued the county had not considered ways to escape the fire, and the judge agreed.

This is not the only time the California fire brigade has been used as a reason to stop development.

Community groups are seeing an increase in traffic in California courts arguing that the problem of fire was not properly considered in plans to build homes in areas where the fire broke out. fires that live at the edge of forests and swamps, called the wildland-urban interface. Experts say it could become commonplace.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has backed a handful of lawsuits, citing developers.

“You can’t continue to work like we’re doing when the world around us changes,” Bonta said in an interview, adding that she supported the another house. For example, his office questioned the escalation of the fire of a 16,000-acre (6,475-hectare) project that will have a luxury hotel and 385 apartments in Lake County, about 130 miles ( 209 kilometers) north of San Francisco somewhere. saw firsthand the great fire.

Bonta said his office is working on a policy to help developers and local officials prevent opposition from his office. It will provide guidance on evacuation routes, planning for population growth and fire reduction, he said.

Developers say they have considered fire safety issues in their plans, enforce strict fire codes and adhere to state environmental policies, while trying to alleviate some of the most serious fire problems. state: need for additional buildings.

According to the builders, communities sometimes misuse fire as a tool to stop development. The AG’s office weighed in on this side. Last year, the city of Encinitas denied permits to a residence, saying the car could be taken out if there was a fire.

Encinitas – a city with a median home budget of $ 1.67 million – is hitting the state’s affordable housing goals, the Bonta office writes. Months later, the commission approved the developer’s plan with some changes.

AHI and laws

California is drying up under a megadrought that is increasing the impact of fires, with 12 of the 20 largest wildfires in its history occurring in the past five years. UC Berkeley researchers estimate that 1.4 million homes in California are located in high -rise or high -rise areas. Proponents of her case have been working to make sure the fire is well received by the public.

As a result, there are more cases.

Opponents are using the development of the California Environmental Quality Act to challenge local governments in these cases. That law ensures that there is enough information about projects like Otay Village 14 for officials to determine the information and resolve issues. In 2018, the state strengthened the requirements for reporting a fire problem, leaving developers even more vulnerable to this type of litigation.

Peter Broderick, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity, said community groups are competing for “the best of the best,” in large -scale projects in undeveloped, high -altitude areas. of fire to keep consumers safe.

“We’re talking about sprawl,” Broderick said.

Pro-housing advocates say state policies encourage sprawl.


But in the fight against major developments, community groups are holding on to thousands of homes, said Mark Dillon, a lawyer who replaced the Otay Village 14 building. , which uses fire prevention technologies and enforces building codes, he said. Otay Village 14 will build its own fireplace.

California should not focus on building urban centers, Dillon protested.

“We don’t have to leave a single home,” he said.

Jennifer Hernandez is the head of the West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group at Holland & Knight LLP. He said the developers were making changes to the environmental review law but that the attorney general’s office would issue a public policy.

“The ad hoc nature of the activities is not intended by the AG office to violate California’s housing policies,” he said.

Hernandez cites a business group that sued Calabasas, a wealthy community of more than 20,000 in northwest Los Angeles, arguing that the firefighters were not wrong to refuse a 180-unit development. .

“It’s on the main street of a residential area,” he said. “And why this problem?”

Kindon Meik, Director of Calabasas, said the project violates the public rules and is in a critical area that is currently on fire, adding that the city intends to meet its new housing requirements.

California’s housing shortage made it impossible to sell homes for low -income and low -income residents. According to researchers, housing policy experts, and others, development at the edge of the forest has been led by these housing cost sanctions in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Diego. Francisco and their locations.

In recent years, the state has decided on plans to build more new homes in cities, but a state building plan says 2.5 million new homes will be needed in eight years. to come.

Greg Pierce, a city environmental policy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said there was very little land left in California that was unbuilt, too little and too little fire.

Nowadays, more and more manufacturers wear their crosshairs.

NeySa Ely of Escondido has a list of things like medicine and dog supplies to grab the next time she runs into a fire. He had to retire in 2003 and 2007. For the first time, he remembers driving and seeing fire in the mirror.

“At that moment, I started to cry,” Ely said.

His house survived the fire, but the memory remains intact. So when he heard about plans for Harvest Hills, a construction site of about 550 homes estimated to be about a mile from his home, he decided to stop, out of fear. residents and houses in the area blocked roads and increased the fire. .

The project was not approved, but if it did, Ely said, “I think it will be heavily criticized.”


The Associated Press has support from the Walton Family Foundation to cover water and environmental policies. The AP alone is responsible for everything. For AP’s environmental coverage, visit

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Wildfire threat becomes tool to fight home builders Source link Wildfire threat becomes tool to fight home builders

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