SAN MARCOS — A 189-home development in the northern foothills of San Marcos received the unanimous backing of the Planning Commission, despite outcry from neighboring residents to vote the project down.
The commission voted to recommend the City Council approve the San Marcos Highlands project, which has been around in some form since 1990. It was revived in late 2014 after developers temporarily shelved the plans, and has been somewhat controversial in the communities immediately surrounding the project, which is proposed on 262 acres northwest of Palomar College.
The City Council still has to approve the project, and The Local Agency Formation Commission will also have to weigh in on the project because it requires the annexation of about 121 acres from the county into the city limits. LAFCO oversees boundary changes such as annexations.
Opponents, many of whom live in the adjacent 1,600-home Santa Fe Hills Community, have complained about the project’s traffic impacts and its aesthetic impact on the community’s prominent ridgeline.
But it is the project’s future ramifications that worry them, specifically as it pertains to a proposed extension of Las Posas Road.
A number of residents in the adjacent Santa Fe Hills community or in unincorporated county land north of the project along Buena Creek Road have been opposed to or skeptical of the project largely due to a feature of the project that would extend Las Posas Road in San Marcos nearly to Buena Creek
While the project does not call for the road connection to be completed, neighbors see the development as simply a step toward the inevitable completion of that link, which will exacerbate traffic along Buena Creek and Twin Oaks Valley Road. Twin Oaks Valley Road, which turns into Deer Springs Road, already becomes bogged down with traffic during rush hour as commuters use it to avoid traffic along the eastbound state Route78 on their way to Interstate 15.
“Obviously I think it is a bad vote from my perspective,” said Robert Peterson, who lives along Deer Springs Road in unincorporated county area near San Marcos. “The last thing we need is more traffic congestion and lessened quality of life along the I-15 corridor.”
Developers have argued that long-stalled projects such as San Marcos Highlands have contributed to a self-imposed housing crisis in San Diego, where housing demand far outstrips available housing stock.
Property owner Farouk Kubba originally bought the property in 1981. Nine years later, the City Council approved his development proposal for 275 homes, but that project was held up when the economy soured and when the adjacent 1,600-home Santa Fe Hills project (then called Paloma) by another developer ran into financial trouble.
In 1999, when the Highlands project was ready to move forward, it hit resistance from neighbors and wildlife agencies with complaints ranging from traffic to changing the rural character of the area to environmental impacts to the extension of Las Posas to Buena Creek.
In 2002, the council approved Kubba’s request to build 230 homes. But by 2006, with no work done, the city refused to give extensions to its approval and the project once again hit the skids.
In 2014, Kubba’s project was revived — with a bid this time to build 198 homes. More than a year later, the number of proposed homes has shrunk even further, to 189 homes, to allow for a little more open space.