Residents file lawsuit over ‘Desert Rose’ development

Residents file lawsuit over ‘Desert Rose’ development
A sign staked in northeastern Olivenhain at the beginning of the year urges residents to speak out against the “Desert Rose” development at a City Council meeting. The project was ultimately approved by councilmembers in March. After a long battle at the city level, the Desert Rose debate will play out in court. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — Residents from Save Desert Rose, a group made up of Olivenhain residents, filed a lawsuit last week against the city and Woodridge Farms Estates over the planned “Desert Rose” development. 

Everett Delano, representing Save Desert Rose, said that the lawsuit seeks to force the city to complete an environmental impact report for the 16-home development in northeastern Olivenhain.

In approving the project this past month, the City Council said that the development doesn’t need a full environmental impact report, because it won’t significantly affect the land, including wildlife and a nearby wetland.

If the San Diego Superior Court rules that the city must carry out an environmental impact report, the contentious project would once again go before council. With an impact report on the table, Delano said that councilmembers would be more likely to vote against the development.

“The true impacts of the project would be revealed,” Delano said. He added that the developers would have to pay for the impact report, not the city.

Marco Gonzalez, the attorney for Desert Rose developers Woodridge Farms Estates, noted that he wasn’t surprised by the legal action.

“They’ve threatened this lawsuit all along,” he said.

He said that it’s unlikely the court will find that an environmental impact report is required. Yet even if the city is ordered to file an impact report, he said council would still back the development.

“This (development) isn’t harmful to the environment,” Gonzalez said.

Save Desert Rose and other Olivenhain residents argue that the project will ruin the rural community. But at the March council meeting councilmembers said that denying Desert Rose would violate the state’s density-bonus law, leaving the city vulnerable to lawsuits from developers.

The project is soon to undergo a multi-month design review process to make sure all aspects of the project comply with city requirements. Tom Curriden, senior planner with the city, said that the lawsuit won’t hold up design review; it would only be delayed upon a court order.

It’s not yet known when the issue will be heard in court.



Filed Under: Rancho Santa Fe Featured


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  1. Tree Hugger says:

    Marco Gonzalez, the attorney for Desert Rose developers Woodridge Farms Estates, noted that he wasn’t surprised by the legal action.
    “They’ve threatened this lawsuit all along,” he said.

    Marco, lets set the record straight. The Desert Rose opposition were polite to council leading up to the hearings. YOU are the one who has a history of threatening the City with lawsuits. It is on tape going back for years!

    As the article states, the Council was intimidated by you and your clients–not the citizens who oppose this plan.

    • Concerned Community Member says:

      I agree with the post above. Recently, Marco Gonzalez has made a living taking cities to court. He is unpopular in the City of San Diego and other places over the fire works issue.

      A lot of people in the environmental community are sad to see him go for money above principals.

      Step back into the light Marco!

  2. Compassionate Citizen says:

    Sorry for the loss of trust by the Desert Rose Community, and by all of us who thought our “new Council” would fulfill their campaign promises and include the public in their “partnerships with stakeholders, their symbiotic relationship, “leveraging influence” to “cooperate, collaborate, and create.” Yeah . . . right . . .

    Marco “threatens” lawsuits, and litigates for a living. Good attorneys have to be able to debate any side of any question. He’s probably a good guy, but he made a big mistake on this issue, in the eyes of so many. But the “buck” stops with Mayor Barth, Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, and Councilmember Tony Kranz, who aren’t supporting the neighborhoods, or their voting base.

    By his statement that “we’ll stand shoulder to shoulder” with the City, against the community, Marco is also alienating his environmentally sensitive supporters. He has to know that there is reasonable evidence to support the Planing Commissions well-founded decision. Marco knows, or should have known that Everett Delano should have represented the Desert Rose Communicty, and the PC’s decision, as Respondent. With Marco being Applicant/Appeallant/Expert/ and the Desert Rose’s public speakers, including experts discounted by Staff and Council, there was no equity. The public hearing was one-sided. The Mayor should not have spoken with Marco Gonzalez while the public hearing was continued and “open.”

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