On Thursday, the San Diego Planning Commission unanimously approved a plan by developer Lennar Homes to build 536 new housing units in northeast Rancho Peñasquitos on the old Doubletree Golf Course.
Residents voiced concerns, including worries about congested evacuation routes in the event of a wildfire, because there is only one road in and out of the community
PQ-NE, a local organization that has raised concerns about the development, sent the following statement to NBC 7 after the planning commission's vote:
"Thank you to the PQ-NE Action Group board members and community residents who participated in this morning’s City of San Diego Planning Commission hearing with regard to The Junipers. Despite valid opposition comments during the meeting that included concerns about fire evacuation, traffic congestion, danger due to one exit, loss of green space and so much more, the commissioners unanimously voted to recommend for approval the project to the city council for permitting. Our organization is disappointed, but not surprised. We will continue to share our concerns with elected officials about permitting this project as planned, including City Council members. We will keep you updated on our efforts.
If approved by the full city council, The Junipers would be the third housing project near the intersection of Peñasquitos Drive and Carmel Mountain Road, and could double the number of residential units in the area, according to a local community group.
“They just can’t develop any place and not take into account the safety concerns that a development would create,” Joe Pierzina, a 24-year resident of Rancho Peñasquitos, told NBC 7 on Wednesday.
The Junipers, would be exclusive to people 55 and older, with 15% of its apartments designated for low-income seniors.
A spokesperson for Lennar would not provide a written statement to NBC 7 but said all community concerns have been addressed in the plan’s environmental impact report. Chief among those concerns is fear of what could happen in the need of evacuation during a wildfire.
“This whole community is a cul-de-sac and there’s only one way in and one way out,” said Pierzina. “We’re really concerned that as a fire comes up and over the hill, we’re not going to be able to get out, so by the city approving this, there’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.”
Pierzina recalled difficulties trying to evacuate the area during the 2007 wildfires.
“From here to the freeway, it’s only about a mile drive for me. It took me and my family over an hour to get out of here, and at that point, none of this new development was in,” said Pierzina.
“We would basically like to make sure that the other side is being heard, that their interests are being represented, and that whatever is done here is really being done with the greater interest of our local community and the city of San Diego as a whole," said Stephen Haight, president of the PQ-NE Action Group.
While community leaders are resigned to the fact that development will occur, they’re hopeful their efforts will lead to construction of fewer homes, and consideration of other options,
“Putting in another way in and out of the neighborhood would certainly be an option that would assist in that evacuation concern that we have,” said Pierzina.
According to information on the developer’s website:
“Projects like The Junipers, which have been designed to meet all city code requirements, would NOT require an FPP or an Evacuation Plan. However, both reports have been included in The Junipers’ Environmental Impact Report to support the CEQA analysis and address community concern."
“The contents of the FPP and the Evacuation Plan were presented at the Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board Land Use Committee on June 5 and September 4, 2019.”
The plan next goes to the San Diego City Council for approval. That review and vote is expected to take place next May.