Community group files lawsuit over Rancho Cielo homes

Community group files lawsuit over Rancho Cielo homes
A group of residents near Cielo Estates, pictured above, in Rancho Santa Fe have filed a lawsuit against the county and Rancho Cielo Estates Ltd. over the recent amendment approvals on the San Dieguito Specific Plan, which would allow the development of a proposed 24-home project to move forward. File photo

RANCHO SANTA FE — On Sept. 6, the SDCC (San Dieguito Community Council) filed a lawsuit against San Diego County over the approval of the residential project Rancho Cielo, alleging that the project fails to comply with state environmental standards. 

After decades of revision, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the Rancho Cielo project, which consists of 24 single-family homes located off of Via Ambiente in Rancho Santa Fe, on Aug. 7.

The specific plan for the Rancho Cielo residential project initially came before the Board in 1981. Over 30 years, the specific plan was amended six times.

In September 2012, the project was brought before the Board with plans for 42 condominiums and single-family homes and a combined community and civic use center. The project was whittled down after that meeting to its current proposal after the Board and residents expressed concerns about the number and style of residences initially proposed.

The SDCC was formed just after the County Board of Supervisors granted approval for the project on Aug. 7, according to Everett DeLano, the attorney representing the group.

A nonprofit, the SDCC consists of a number of concerned residents who live near the Rancho Cielo project site.

Filed on Sept. 6 in the North County branch of San Diego Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that the County failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to consider the environmental impacts of the project, prepare an environmental analysis of the project, and consider feasible project alternatives and mitigation.

The lawsuit also cites concerns about safety and traffic impacts of the project.

The suit seeks to invalidate the County’s approval of the Rancho Cielo project.

Rancho Cielo Estates Ltd., the entity applying to construct the residential project, is also named as a respondent in the lawsuit.

“The issues (of this project) have obviously changed dramatically since the early ’80s whether its traffic on Del Dios or fire safety,” said DeLano, referring to the project’s initial approval in 1981.

Specifically, he said the SDCC is concerned that the project is based on an environmental impact report that was completed in 1981 and revised in 1984.

“There has been no substantive environmental analysis since the early ’80s,” said DeLano.

County documents on the project state, “The 24-lot single family, fee-title residential project does not present a substantial change to the environmental impacts and mitigation measures from what was previously analyzed in 1981 and 1984.”

Representatives from Rancho Cielo Estates Ltd. could not be reached for comment.

DeLano said that the SDCC and County will have to meet for a mandatory settlement conference and that it will be months before it is known whether the case will go to court or not.

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