Attorney General Bonta Secures Court Decision Vacating Approval of Lake County Development Project in Area That Has Burned Repeatedly
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today secured a decision by the Lake County Superior Court vacating Lake County’s approval of the proposed Guenoc Valley Mixed Use Planned Development (Guenoc Valley) Project. In today’s decision, Lake County Superior Court found that approval of the Guenoc Valley Project was based on an inadequate environmental review that failed to consider the Project’s impact on the surrounding community’s emergency evacuation routes in the event of wildfire in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.
“Today’s decision by the Superior Court affirms a basic fact: Local governments and developers have a responsibility to take a hard look at projects that exacerbate wildfire risk and endanger our communities," said Attorney General Bonta. “We can't keep making shortsighted land use decisions that will have impacts decades down the line. We must build responsibly. This is a win for current and future residents of Lake County, who can rest easier knowing that this project will only move forward if the developer takes proactive steps to ensure their safe evacuation if and when a wildfire occurs."
The Guenoc Valley Project is a luxury resort and residential development project located on the 16,000-acre Guenoc Valley Ranch property in southeast Lake County, along the border of Napa County. As proposed, the Project would include up to 850 hotel rooms and resort apartments, 1,400 residences, and various resort amenities, along with an off-site workforce housing development and water well infrastructure. As the court noted, the Project is estimated to bring approximately 4,000 residents to the area, a significant population increase given the surrounding area’s existing population of approximately 10,000. The Guenoc Valley Project site is largely designated as a very high fire hazard severity zone, and was burned by wildfires in 1952, 1953, 1963, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2006, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2020.
During the environmental review process, the Attorney General’s Office submitted comment letters to Lake County regarding inadequacies in the final Environmental Impact Report’s (EIR) analysis of wildfire impacts. After the project was approved, the Attorney General intervened on behalf of the People of California in a lawsuit filed by conservation groups. In today’s decision, Lake County Superior Court found in the People’s and the conservation organizations’ favor and vacated the County’s approval of the project. Specifically, the Superior Court found Lake County’s EIR failed to adequately analyze the Project’s impacts on community evacuation given the evidence that the Project may significantly exacerbate existing wildfire risks.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to ensuring that local governments consider the wildfire risk associated with new development projects at the front end. In October, the San Diego Superior Court found in the Attorney General and conservation groups' favor in litigation challenging the approval of a San Diego development project in a very high fire hazard severity zone.
A copy of today’s decision can be found here.