An huge increase in zoning is currently being proposed that, if approved, will permanently change San Elijo Hills, Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove. The 69-acre property is just west of the closed San Marcos Landfill, south of San Elijo Road. This project is called SD15 in the County and Copper Hills in the City of San Marcos.
The developer could have named this project “Toxic Hills” as this land never produced copper and County reports document (1) onsite signs of landfill leachate and/or landfill gas intrusion and (2) possible health risks to future residents and tenants.
This will change the community forever by
- harming the character of the community;
- dramatically increasing traffic;
- impeding emergency evacuation and diverting fire resources; and
- causing environmental harm to Copper Creek and neighboring habitat preserves.
- Right now, this property is in the unincorporated County. An amendment to the County General Plan proposes increasing SD15’s maximum density almost six-fold from 61 dwelling units (SR-1 zoning) to 362 dwelling units plus a large amount of commercial space (C-1, SR-0.5, VR-10.9 zoning).
This project will be heard at a Board of Supervisors meeting on September 12and will be approved unless citizens vocally protest. While the San Dieguito Planning Group voted against this project, County staff and the Planning Commission are recommending approval. Nonetheless, this project can be stopped by our elected representatives if residents speak up.
If this property is rezoned, County studies report there will be an additional 16,231 average daily trips. That is approximately a 27-fold increaseover the number of trips allowed under current zoning. This will negatively affect quality of life.
Impedes Emergency Evacuation
Existing roads and connectors are already inadequate to provide safe exit from San Elijo Hills, Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove. In the 2014 Cocos fire, there was traffic gridlock causing people to wait hour(s) to evacuate. The proposed residential and commercial density will make this problem much worse.
Diversion of Fire Resources
This property will primarily rely on the San Marcos Fire Department and will divert fire protection resources from San Elijo Hills. This property will be very difficult to defend on up to three sides from fire. Because of the proposed density concentration, fire departments would likely prioritize this property over single family homes.
Harms to Copper Creek/Escondido Creek/San Elijo Lagoon
Copper Creek (leading to Escondido Creek and San Elijo Lagoon) is already suffering from siltation, sedimentation, scouring and flooding from projects such as this that did not adequately mitigate the impacts. The intensity of this proposed development/hardscape will only increase the harms to the Creek and property downstream.
This project is opposed by the Escondido Creek Conservancy.
This Project Is Harmful to Habitat, Including Nearby Preserved Lands
This property serves as an important connector/corridor from the County Core to the San Marcos habitat areas. Development of this property as proposed will fragment the habitat and decrease habitat connectivity between the County and San Marcos. Edge effects will harm neighboring habitats and fuel modification arrangements will cut into habitat. Light and glare effects will affect neighboring preserves and decrease resident’s quality of life.
This project is opposed by neighboring land managers, including the Center for Natural Lands Management.
County Neighbors were Held to a Double Standard
Before the County’s 2020 General Plan Update, this property and its neighbors were all zoned 1 dwelling unit per 2 acres. As a result of General Plan 2020, this property was already doubled in density to 1 dwelling unit per 1 acre while its County neighbors lost their density and are now zoned 1 dwelling unit per 10 acres. That means this project will have 52.5 timesthe density of its County neighbors. This just isn’t fair!
There have long been concerns with the San Marcos landfill. The landfill is mostly unlined and took 18.75 million tons of material between 1979 and 1997. The landfill reportedly accepted residential, commercial and agricultural waste including paint and paint thinners, oil, treated sewage sludge and medical waste. No laws prevented “certain types of low level radioactive waste, known as decommissioned materials” from disposal in the San Marcos Landfill.
A 2017 letter from the County about SD15 states, “While the San Marcos Landfill has closed, it can be expected to remain biologically active and generate landfill gas and leachate for more than 30-50 years after closure.” Monitoring may need to continue forever.
The County writes that “Landfill gas represents a health and safety issue” and gas can “migrate off site.” Landfill gases “can pose an explosion and human health threat.”
SD15’s onsite groundwater monitoring wells are detecting toxic chemicals of concern (“COCs”). According to the County, there are two likely sources: landfill leachate and landfill gases. Per County documents, “[t]he source of COCs outside the waste area is likely due to migration of [landfill gas] and, to a lesser degree, leachate.” County letters concerning SD15 state that “Landfill gas has been documented to travel in the subsurface 1,000 feet or more from the source. The underlying geology of [SD15] is fractured rock, which adds another layer of complexity to potential gas migration.”
County maps show that most of the groundwater from the landfill flows towards the west, towards SD15/Copper Hills.
News articlesreport that the San Marcos landfill “is leaching chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm and other health problems.” It continues, “officials said that because these chemicals don’t occur naturally, any leak exceeds standards set for those sites” and “[a]ny volatile (organic compound) that’s detected in groundwater is an indication of release from the landfills” (emphasis added).
Unfortunately, the County has limited ability to protect residents/tenants from landfill gases and landfill gases. The County has stated that the Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency “has no regulatory authorityto require [this] Project to be constructed with measures to mitigate the effects of the landfill” (emphasis added).
The County has only the power to requestDepartment of Environmental Health monitoring of residents, resident notification of landfill proximity, and installation of landfill gas mitigation measures such as explosion-proof conduits/sealing, use of a gas migration barrier with passive venting and hard-wired methane detectors. Will this developer follow the County’s requests?
In 1999, eighty acres of San Elijo Hills was condemned by the County as a landfill buffer. News reportsstate the condemned land was located 1000 feet to 1.5 miles away from the landfill. SD15/Copper Hills is within 1000 feet of the landfill.
This property should not be aggressively developed and this project should be stopped.
Doesn’t this project include a Boys and Girls Club?
As the property is currently zoned for 61 homes only, with no commercial zoning, it is highly unlikely that there is any definite plan for any specific commercial tenant. I have seen real estate developers frequently make big promises to push through their projects. Often these promises are not kept and communities disappointed.
Real Estate Speculators Should Not Benefit at the Expense of Neighbors
This property was purchased by the developer, Steven A. Bieri, for only $48,755 per acre. That price reflects that this land is not suitable for intensive development. Now, these real estate speculators want to benefit themselves at the expense of the San Elijo Hills, Harmony Grove and Elfin Forest communities.
We can build a better world for our families and children by speaking up because every voice matters in local politics. The more public input, using different communications methods, the greater likelihood that we can preserve the community:
- Oppose this in person at the Board of Supervisors Meetingon September 12, 2018at County Administration Center (CAC), Room 310 (Board Chambers), 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego;
- Contact all five County Supervisorsvia Email, Facebook and Twitter opposing the project;
|Supervisor’s email address||Supervisor’s Chief of Staff email address|
- Sign a petition;
- Share this information with your family and friends and encourage them to take action;
- Read moreand sign up to the mailing list.The developer is also processing this project in the City of San Marcos that will also need public input.