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Save Desert Rose group to appeal ruling

ENCINITAS — A citizens group opposed to the Desert Rose development in Olivenhain has announced it will ask the State Supreme Court to review the appellate division’s reversal of its victory in the lower courts.

“Save Desert Rose has given Everett DeLano the green light to file the court documents required to take the case to the California State Supreme Court,” Bill Butler, the co-founder of the group, wrote in an email to The Coast News this week.

In a decision that left many in the Save Desert Rose movement stunned, the Fourth District Court of Appeal last week unanimously reversed Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes’ 2014 decision to require the city and the project developer, Woodbridge Farms Estates, to conduct a more stringent environmental study of the 16-unit density bonus project.

State law allows for developers to build extra, or “bonus” homes on land if one or more of the homes are earmarked for low-income residents.

The Desert Rose controversy has been the center of the battle between some Encinitas residents and the so-called “density bonus” developments, of which developers have built a proportionally large amount of such projects in Encinitas.

The residents have complained the projects alter the character of the community with oversized and super-dense units and cause other environmental woes, such as increased traffic and damage to wetlands in the case of Desert Rose.

After the city approved Desert Rose and the companion environmental report in 2013, Save Desert Rose filed a lawsuit to compel an environmental report.

According to the 37-page decision, the three-judge panel of Joan Irion, Terry O’Rourke and James A. McIntyre ruled that Save Desert Rose failed to prove that the project would cause the environmental woes they argued would occur if an environmental impact report — which is more stringent than a mitigated negative declaration — was not ordered.

Marco Gonzalez, an environmental attorney representing Woodbridge Estates, said he doubts the Supreme Court will decide to review the case.

The seven-judge high-court panel doesn’t typically grant review requests. In 2013, the high court granted 61 of the 4,182 review petitions received and rejected 4,032 requests. In the cases that are reviewed, such as the prominent seawall case Lynch v. California Coastal Commission, the ruling addresses a policy issue with statewide implications.

“We respect the rights of Save Desert Rose to file a request to have the appeal be reviewed by the Supreme Court, but we are extremely skeptical the court will see a policy issue of statewide concern in this suit,” Gonzalez said. “They are grasping at straws at this point.”

Gonzalez said the developer is currently finalizing the grading permit and hopes to commence construction soon.