ESCONDIDO – The Sierra Club in North County recently launched a new Stop Harvest Hills campaign alongside several community and environmental organizations who also oppose the project. The campaign includes a new video urging the halt of the development.
“We are ready to re-ignite the fight to halt sprawl development in Escondido and to Stop Harvest Hills,” said Laura Hunter, Chair of the Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club North County Group. “Defeat of the Harvest Hills development proposal is a top priority for San Diego Sierra Club members and their allies.”
The proposal is a high-end sprawl development that proposes developing 550 luxury homes on 1,100 acres of land in the San Pasqual Valley on county property near the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The city would need to annex the land into the municipality’s boundaries as part of the approval.
Proposed by Concordia Homes, the development has been in the planning process for the past six years and was formerly known as Safari Highlands Ranch before being rebranded as Harvest Hills.
Critics of the Harvest Hills say it will endanger wildlife habitats, increase wildfire risk and have negative effects on transit and climate change — claims that have been rebuffed by Concordia.
“It is unfortunate that factually inaccurate claims and testimonials are being used in an attempt to scare and confuse Escondido residents,” said Don Underwood, president of Concordia Homes. “The reality is that Harvest Hills will set the new standard for how housing communities can help achieve regional housing goals, protect natural resources and increase public safety. Harvest Hills will support Escondido’s sustainable future and fulfill the vision of the voter-approved Escondido General Plan calling for housing on this property. With Harvest Hills, residents will also benefit from a new and fully equipped fire station, emergency evacuation route to the northwest and more than 762 acres of permanent open space.”
Proponents of the project say that it supports sustainability by being the city’s first-ever carbon neutral, net-zero energy and agri-neighborhood housing community.
The video features several speakers including Scott Graves, a member of the San Pasqual Valley Preservation Alliance, Escondido resident Linda Stanwood, Youth Climate Activist and Escondido resident Aisha Wallace-Palomares, Tribal Councilmember of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians Dave Toler and former Escondido Union School Board member George McClure.
“Large-scale fires are becoming more frequent and more devastating… the addition of several hundred cars evacuating on narrow winding roads will delay our evacuation times and result in homeowners getting trapped,” said Graves in the video.
More than two dozen community and environmental organizations have already shown support for the Sierra Club in opposing the project and have joined in organizing against it.
“Sierra Club opposes Harvest Hills for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this new development will decimate hundreds of acres of critical wildlife habitat and pristine open space to build 550 “estate homes” in a “Very High Danger” fire zone, exacerbating potential evacuation efforts of area residents to a dangerous level, and draining funding from the urban core,” stated Sierra Club San Diego Chapter Conservation Chair George Courser.
The Escondido City Council is expected to vote on the Harvest Hills development in the coming months, however, it is still unclear when that will be.