SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today submitted comments to the County of San Diego on its Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the proposed Otay Ranch Resort Village – Village 13 (Otay Ranch) project. While the County’s Final EIR addresses some of the concerns that Attorney General Becerra highlighted in his December 2019 comment letter on the Draft EIR, the County’s assessment of wildfire risks associated with the Otay Ranch project remains inadequate. In today’s letter, Attorney General Becerra cautions the County of San Diego against certifying the Final EIR and approving the Otay Ranch project before it adequately addresses the increased risk of wildfire that the project will create.
“As we come out the other side of yet another destructive wildfire season, it has never been more important for local governments to carefully review and consider the risks associated with approving new developments in fire-prone areas,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We urge the County of San Diego to fully evaluate – and work to mitigate – the wildfire risks posed by the Otay Ranch project before moving any further in the approval process.”
The proposed Otay Ranch project would sit on a currently undeveloped 1,869-acre site in a very high fire hazard severity zone in southwestern San Diego County, east of Chula Vista. The site lies at the interface of existing development and undisturbed wildland, and the project would expand the boundary of existing urban development into that open space. The project would develop 692.5 acres of the site and would feature 1,881 single-family units; a mixed-use site with 57 multifamily units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space; a resort site with 200 guest rooms and up to 20,000 square feet of commercial office use; parks and managed open space; an elementary school site; and a public safety site for a fire station.
In today's comments, Attorney General Becerra argues that the County of San Diego’s assertion that the project will not exacerbate wildfire risk is over-simplified and relies on sources that, in fact, prove the opposite. The Final EIR fails to adequately address the increased and cumulative wildfire risk that will result from development of the project, as well as to include a robust evacuation plan or assure that the community can be evacuated safely in case a fire occurs. These critical flaws in the County’s analysis cannot be overlooked. As such, the County should not certify the Final EIR or approve the Otay Ranch project until it addresses these concerns.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that state and local agencies disclose and evaluate the significant environmental impacts of proposed projects and adopt all feasible mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate those impacts. The Attorney General, in his independent capacity, has a special role in overseeing and enforcing CEQA. The Attorney General frequently files public comment letters alerting local agencies to potential violations of CEQA, files and intervenes in lawsuits, enters settlements, and submits “friend of the court” briefs in significant appellate cases. More information and previous CEQA comment letters can be found here: https://oag.ca.gov/environment/ceqa/letters.
A copy of the letter can be found here.