Lines drawn over proposed Safari Highlands Ranch

Lines drawn over proposed Safari Highlands Ranch
Concordia Homes is proposing 550 estate homes east of Escondido for its Safari Highlands Ranch development. Courtesy image

ESCONDIDO — Another development battle is brewing, this time over Concordia Homes’ proposal of 550 estate homes dubbed Safari Highlands Ranch.

The area is just north of the San Diego Safari Park and the city of Escondido held an open house Nov. 7 to allow residents the chance to view a draft of the environment impact report, which is about 4,000 pages. Resident may comment on the EIR until Dec. 7.

Concordia Homes would need the city of Escondido to annex the land, which is currently owned by the county of San Diego and zoned for just 27 homes.

“Safari Highlands Ranch is committed to delivering a high-quality residential community in Escondido that will improve public safety, enhance local roads and infrastructure and preserve more than 700 acres of permanent open space,” said Ken Moore, a spokesman for Concordia Homes. “We put together a comprehensive project … they include the golf course, public safety improvements and traffic improvements.”

The plan is detailed as Concordia Homes also plans to build a new fire station at no cost to the city with equipment, although Moore did not have further details.

As for open space, the project calls for 70 percent of the site, or 700 of the 1,098 acres, to remain designated as such with nine miles of trails, which will be maintained by the homeowners association.

Safari Highlands Ranch will also help build or fund a new clubhouse for Eagle Crest Golf Club.

A new signal would be added at State Route 78 and Summit Road, while the intersection at SR78 and Cloverdale Road would be renovated to ease traffic flow into the valley.

Concordia Homes also said it will provide nearly $3 million in development school fees dedicated to the San Pasqual Union School District and more than $7 million in overall school fees.

“We have developed a project that we stand behind,” Moore said. “Safari Highlands Ranch was designed to fulfill the vision of the city of Escondido’s general plan and will provide needed housing for our region. The release of the draft environmental impact report and public comment period is an important milestone that will provide local residents with the opportunity to provide feedback on this critical project.”

However, the San Pasqual Valley Preservation Alliance is pushing back against the project. NeySa Ely, CEO of the SPVPA, said the group has many concerns, notably with the blasting and moving of millions of cubic feet of dirt, only having one access road into the project, subpar traffic improvements and the tripling of traffic on Rockwood Road, which would lead into the development.

Ely said one significant concern is there is only one road leading into the project, which would run between the Rancho Vistamonte and Rancho San Pasqual communities. There is an emergency access road planned for the northwest part of the project, but it would not be available to the public.

“We didn’t really see or hear anything we didn’t already know,” Ely said. “It’s still very rural land zoned for 27 houses. That’s what they bought, that’s their land and they are looking for a mechanism for which they can flip that into being worth, and able, to put 550 houses with the same one road in and one road out.”

As for the timeline, the estimated completion isn’t until 2026-27. The proposal must first be approved by the city, to which Concordia Homes is expected to submit its EIR and plans in 2018.

If approved, the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission must approve the annexation. Moore said the ground breaking likely wouldn’t start until 2021.

Ely, who lives in the Rancho Vistamonte community, said the added traffic, threat of wildfires and debris created makes the project untenable. “If you were doing fewer houses, there wouldn’t be concerns about the impacts of construction, the permanent impact of traffic and the fire danger,” she added.

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