“Nearly all of the site is Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area," a 2002 California Coastal Commission report says.
More than 40 residents of Mira Mesa neighborhood that's small and private by topography and design showed up at a planning group meeting Monday night (March 20) to oppose a project that would add houses at the end of their street above Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.
Tierra Alta is a Newland Homes project the builders began designing in 1999. It uses the northern tip of a mesa that extends north from Calle Cristobal (the renamed Sorrento Valley Road). Right now, there are about 100 homes in the Tierra Mesa subdivision, which is a big cul-de-sac, with just one street entrance off the busy Calle Cristobal. Residents came to the meeting to oppose the project, which would add eight new homes at the north end of their neighborhood.
"There are people here today who just heard about this," said resident Jonathan Perkins. "People who oppose this plan — and we're finding out that the planning group approved it without talking to the residents — we're left in the dark."
How the property can be developed has long been a difficult question. In 2002, the California Coastal Commission rejected the city's proposed rezoning to medium density and proposed its own version.
"The site is partially a flat mesa top and partially steep slopes leading down into Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve," a California Coastal Commission report from 2002 says. “Nearly all of the site is Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, including southern mixed chaparral on both the slopes and mesa top, with vernal pool habitat present on the mesa top as well.”
The 4.4-acre site is only suitable for low density housing, between one and four homes per acre, according to the report, which recommends that about 25 percent can be developed and the rest of the site turned into open space to protect fairy shrimp — which inhabit vernal pools — and other sensitive habitat.
The 2002 plan shows about a dozen lots and houses at the mesa tip. But the project wasn't completed for reasons unknown. Newland Communities and its engineer, John Leppert, did not return calls for information.
The revised project is facing a deadline of March 31 to turn in much of its documentation for city approval.
Because it has already been approved in concept, residents in the quiet cul-de-sac have few options to oppose the project, they learned. Their best option would be going through city councilman Chris Cate's office. A representative from the councilman's office was at the meeting and indicated that this was the first he'd heard about the coming new construction.
Residents in the new homes would use the subdivision's streets to get in and out of the new subdivision, without contributing to the homeowners’ association that maintains the street space, residents said.
"I'd hope our homeowners’ association would draft a very strong letter to the developer and the city about the egregious nature of this situation," Kevin Doyle said.