Site of controversial Otay Ranch housing project should be saved; 1,300 acres

SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — As part of a settlement deal that put an end to a protracted legal battle to stop the project, California paid $60 million to acquire a 1,300-acre tract of land east of Chula Vista that had been planned for development. The land will now be permanently designated as wildlands.

The proposed “Adara at Otay Ranch” project, a sprawl development that promised over 1,100 single-family homes, businesses, and a school amid wildlands along Proctor Valley Road, was challenged in a 2020 lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental groups and state entities.

Supported by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the groups asserted that when county officials approved the construction, they neglected to take into account the severe risk associated with the location and the project’s potential environmental effects on nearby species.

In 2021, a San Diego Superior Court judge upheld the project’s permission over the county’s objections. He listed several issues in his decision, including as the possibility of wildfires, greenhouse gas emissions, and the fact that affordable housing units were not put aside.

A few months after the judge’s ruling, in early 2022, settlement talks were initiated between the developer and the environmental groups. The $60 million sale of the land to California was completed last week with the conclusion of the case.

According to the terms of the agreement, the Nature Conservancy, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

An additional $25 million is provided by the US. Department of Homeland Security as part of a settlement reached in 2023 with the Biden Administration over a number of lawsuits brought by the former president Donald Trump opposing the building of the wall between the United States and Mexico.

The settlement deal also mandates that the developers reimburse the California Department of Justice and the other petitioners for more than $2 million in legal fees.

Once the purchase is completed, the site will be a part of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, a multi-habitat preserve between Jamul and Dulzura.

Though no plans have been revealed, recreational options like animal viewing and day hiking might become available in the future.

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