REGION — A massive development project off Deer Springs Road and Interstate 15 near San Marcos and Escondido received a recent setback from the California Department of Transportation.
In a letter dated Aug. 10 to Newland Communities, which is attempting to develop a 2,100-home project called Newland Sierra, Caltrans stated Newland Communities Draft Environmental Impact Report concerning the traffic analysis and mitigation was “insufficient and misleading.” The draft environmental impact report was submitted on June 15.
Caltrans said it is the developer’s responsibility to initiate interchange improvements and mitigate traffic impacts from its proposal.
In addition, Caltrans said the interstate’s mainline from Deer Springs Road to Pomerado Road has no program in place to “implement the necessary improvements” and there is not “feasible mitigation that would reduce the identified impact to less than significant.” The letter stated the impacts are considered significant and unavoidable.
The development site is about five miles south of where Lilac Hills, which voters rejected in last year’s election, is located and near Merriam Mountain.
The San Diego County General Plan, which was passed six years ago, calls for 99 homes in the area. The surrounding neighborhoods include Twin Oaks, Bonsall and Hidden Valley.
“Newland is aware of the Caltrans DEIR letter submitted to the county during the public review comment period for the Newland Sierra DEIR,” Newland Communities Vice President Rita Brandin said. “Responses to the Caltrans letter, as well as responses to all the public comments, are underway as required under CEQA, following a rigorous and thorough process led by the county planning and environmental staff.”
In addition to the homes, an 81,000-square-foot commercial town center, 36 acres of parks — 14 community and neighborhood parks with five pocket parks — two sports fields, 19 miles of trails, 20 acres of vineyards and a site for a future k-8 school are also proposed. No maps of the trails has been submitted, according to the Newland Sierra website, but they would be maintained by the homeowners association.
If passed by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the first homes would be ready by 2021. According to the Newland Sierra website, it expects to go before the Board of Supervisors in spring 2018 with construction beginning in 2019.
Caltrans’ letter, meanwhile, also takes issue with the three park and ride facilities near the project site at Deer Springs, Mountain Meadows and Gopher Canyon roads. The letter states all are at 100 percent capacity and the need for additional parking is “eminent.”
Caltrans questioned why Newland is only interested in “coordinating” or “promoting” use of the park and ride. Due to the scale of the proposal, Caltrans said Newland should contribute financially to expand the parking at those sites.
Newland Communities claims the peak-hours traffic in the morning and evening commute periods would be greater under the General Plan due to traffic generated by office professional and larger scale retail. In addition, the company claims 34 percent less water will be used with this development, as opposed to a 2-million-square-foot commercial center under the General Plan.
The project has also spurred pushback from nearby residents, with at least 100 fighting to stop the project from becoming a reality.
Newland Communities created 4S Ranch in Rancho Bernardo and has another development in Temecula. The company’s headquarters are in San Diego with projects throughout the country.