Decades-long plans to build a landfill off State Route 76 near Pala have been dumped, and an agreement reached to sell a major part of the land to the project’s biggest opponent, the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

Developer GCL LLC announced last week that it had sold 700 acres of the 1,700-acre Gregory Canyon site to the Pala Band for $13 million, effectively ending the project. In turn, the tribe would not oppose retail and commercial development on the remainder of the land.

Though the project was twice approved by voters, the Pala Band and environmental groups sued to block the project, and the City of Oceanside threw its support behind the opposition, because of the site’s proximity to the San Luis Rey River.

The landfill appeared dead when the initial developers declared bankruptcy in 2014, having spent 20 years and nearly $60 million on studies, permits and lawsuits. The project was revived with the help of a private equity firm in 2015.

The Pala Band opposed the landfill because they, and other tribes, consider the site to be spiritually and culturally important.

“We had to make that public for people to understand why it was so important that trash not to be piled on the side of Chok’la on Tauquitch’s home,” Shasta Gaughen, the environmental director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Pala, told KPBS.

The City of Oceanside gets about 15 percent of its water from the groundwater basin, and has invested millions of dollars in pulling even more in the coming years. The city was worried that it was only a matter of time before a landfill would leak pollutants into the San Luis Rey River, and threaten the city’s water supply.

The landfill was originally pitched to and approved by voters because official estimates suggested all the county’s major landfills would be out of space by 2005. Fast-forward to now, when such dire warnings are at odds with our trashy reality: The county’s landfill capacity has more than doubled since the 1990s, though San Diegans are sending less trash to landfills and the city has an ambitious plan to cut the amount even further. As we reported last summer, San Diego County already has enough room for 125 million tons of trash, according to CalRecycle, the state’s waste regulators. In the six-county region, there’s over a billion tons of landfill capacity – enough room in some spots for generations of trash.

The Gregory Canyon agreement now allows the Pala Band to get the land, but also raises concerns about another leapfrog development, being located just a few miles from Lilac Hills.

(Disclosure: I work in IT at the Surfrider Foundation, which opposed the Gregory Canyon landfill.)

San Marcos Drought Scare

A projected water shortage in the Vallecitos Water District is raising fears of rationing in San Marcos, and the potential shortfall is being used to hold up new development in the inland city.

The only problem, according to a scientist in the state’s water resources board, is the shortage exists only on paper. Vallecitos overestimated demand in a five-year water management plan.

“In its plan, Vallecitos assumed that per capita demand in 2020 would be 275 gallons of water per day. That flies in the face of recent history, when average demand has been far less. Last year, per capita demand was 117 gallons per day,” Ry Rivard writes.

Other water agencies assume people will continue to conserve water, unlike Vallecitos, which is the only one to predict a shortfall.

Despite what the plan says, district officials say there is still plenty of water to cover new development, but that’s not doing much to soothe the lawyers.

“Their own planning documents show they have a shortage,” said Christopher Garrett, an attorney for Golden Door Luxury Spa and Resort in San Marcos, which is suing Vallecitos and the developer of a planned 2,100-home community.

Still Counting in North County

As of Tuesday evening, Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar held a 660-vote lead over incumbent Supervisor Dave Roberts in the District 3 County Supervisor’s race.

The Union-Tribune reports it is the closest race in the county in terms of percentage points, with Gaspar having made up a 2,200-vote deficit from the Nov. 8 results – despite Gaspar’s own team saying it was unlikely she would pull ahead.

Roberts’ team, meanwhile, is banking on the provisional ballots yet to be counted to take the lead again.

Another close race, for Carlsbad’s City Council, is coming to an end, with activist Cori Schumacher declaring victory for the second council seat up for grabs.

Schumacher was heavily involved in the fight against the luxury mall on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, and rode a wave of anti-development sentiment.

Schumacher held a 600-vote lead over Councilwoman Lorraine Wood on Tuesday night, with the top position going to Councilman Keith Blackburn, who was quickly declared the leader coming out of the initial results.

Also in the News

• Poway Unified turns down former superintendent for teaching role. (Union-Tribune)

• The North San Diego Business Chamber gets 5-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (Union-Tribune)

• Attorney Marco Gonzalez and Encinitas Mayor-elect Catherine Blakespear discuss the recent rejection of the city’s housing element at the ballot box. (NBC San Diego)

• It’ll take a few more years to finish building, but the first homes are nearing completion at the 636-home Quarry Creek development in Carlsbad. (Union-Tribune)

• Construction is set to begin for new bridges, bike trails, rail tracks and vehicle lanes on Interstate 5 as part of the North Coast Corridor project. (SANDAG)

• Is an agreement between Encinitas and a local soccer club to have lights at a local park legal? (The Coast news)

• Poway rejects an affordable housing project for veterans. (Union-Tribune)

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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