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Proposed Peñasquitos project will test San Diego’s housing plans
By David Garrick, June 11, 2021

536-unit project would be built in suburban area, but along existing transportation corridors

SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s plan to help solve its housing crisis with dense developments in suburban areas will face a key test Tuesday when the City Council considers the 536-unit Junipers project in Rancho Peñasquitos.

The project fits the city’s model for suburban areas, which focuses on adding large housing projects along existing transportation corridors and leaving the surrounding single-family areas alone.

But a well-organized group of nearby residents say The Junipers would clog nearby roadways and make it impossible for residents to evacuate quickly from one of the city’s most wildfire-prone areas.

The residents, who call themselves the Peñasquitos Northeast Action Group, want road improvements and a second exit to speed evacuations from what will become one of the city’s densest suburban neighborhoods after The Junipers project is built.

That’s because The Junipers, which would be built on the defunct Doubletree Golf Resort, is next to two other new projects: the nearly complete, 601-unit Pacific Village and the 331-unit Millennium PQ, which is under construction.

“All of it added together is what really creates the concern,” said resident Joe Peirzina. “We have concerns we won’t be able to get out of here.”

Lennar Homes, the developers of The Junipers, says the area will be safer with The Junipers than it is now.

“The Junipers is the result of nearly five years of outreach and engagement with our neighbors,” said Ryan Green, Lennar San Diego division president. “Their feedback and concerns were integrated into the community’s design – including additional evacuation and emergency access routes that reduce evacuation time by more than 50 percent.”

Lennar also describes The Junipers, which was unanimously approved in April by the city’s Planning Commission, as a model project.

“In addition to public parks and trails, The Junipers provides much-needed housing for the underserved 55-plus market and designates 15 percent of the homes for low-income seniors,” Green said. “The project has undergone rigorous and thorough environmental review.”

The residents and an attorney they hired have raised questions about the environmental review, moves that are often precursors to filing a lawsuit that could seek to block the project.

In a 65-page letter submitted to the city in April, the attorney, Everett Delano, argues that the review failed to properly analyze the project, contending it violates the city’s general plan, housing goals and mobility policies.

He also contends the analysis failed to consider the cumulative impact of all three new projects.

Residents say the three projects would add 3,000 more vehicles to the area, more than doubling the current 2,800.

On wildfires, Lennar officials say their evacuation and fire protection plan for the area is sound.

They say The Junipers includes three points of emergency ingress and egress, noting that residents would be able to head south through The Junipers to access Carmel Mountain Road if Peñasquitos Drive is closed during an emergency.

They also tout an emergency exit at the end of Andorra Way, where they plan to remove bollards. But the residents say the road is too narrow for two-way traffic, preventing evacuations if fire engines are coming into the site.

Lennar also has agreed to plant “ignition-resistant” landscaping and clear flammable brush.

The residents stress that the area has been evacuated at least five times in the last 20 years, including the 2003 and 2007 wildfires.

While critics may characterize the objections as another instance of people engaging in “not in my back yard” opposition, the residents say they don’t oppose development and have genuine concerns.

“We understand in-fill development; just don’t put us in danger,” said resident Judy Piercey.

Tuesday’s council meeting is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.



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