Oceanside CA—Yesterday, Preserve Calavera, a local all-volunteer, grass roots conservation organization, filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Oceanside’s approval of the North River Farms Project and its inadequate environmental analysis. “We have long referred to this as the ‘egregious North River Farms Project,’” said Diane Nygaard, President of Preserve Calavera. “It represents the worst kind of sprawl development placing dense housing where it was not planned, where there is inadequate infrastructure, and where the local community ends up paying a high price.”
Key objections to the project include the irreparable loss of prime farmland, public safety impacts, and the failure to adequately mitigate for the huge increase in greenhouse gasses (GHGs). This project will result in the permanent loss of over 150 acres of farmland that is the gateway to the 3,400-acre agricultural area in northeastern Oceanside known as Morro Hills. Oceanside is one of the few North County cities that still has zoning in place to protect local agriculture. Local farmers have worked for years to develop plans to preserve this area for agriculture. “Allowing a dense housing project at this critical location will just accelerate the loss of this irreplaceable land,” said Nygaard. The developer proposes 585 housing units on land that currently would only allow a maximum of 71.
Concerns about public safety and evacuation were borne out in December of 2017 when the Lilac Fire required mass evacuations of this area. Residents experienced 2-hour traffic jams trying to exit this area on narrow country roads. This part of the city already exceeds the 5-minute emergency response time. The developer’s proposal to require future residents to pay for a small fire station and staff of two does not provide any assurances that public safety will be improved.
The City adopted its first Climate Action Plan (CAP) in May of 2019. The CAP provides a blueprint for how the city will reduce its GHG emissions in order to comply with state law and do its fair share to reduce climate change impacts. Instead of being consistent with the CAP, the project proposes to follow the model of the County of San Diego and allow for offsetting their carbon impacts outside of Oceanside. This method of out sourcing carbon offsets has already lost a legal challenge by the Sierra Club against the County of San Diego. North River Farms fails to set forth concrete, enforceable measures that adequately reduce the climate change impacts of development in the city of Oceanside. This lawsuit alleges that the project relies too heavily on carbon credit programs located outside of the city.
“In 2011, the County promised to prepare a Climate Action Plan that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in the County, but it has reneged on its promise,” said Josh Chatten-Brown of Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer. “It is disappointing to see any city in San Diego follow this example and allow a developer to purchase carbon offsets from anywhere in the world. Such offsets may be completely illusory and would not benefit the residents of Oceanside.”