After decades of work on a plan to preserve 290,000 acres of habitat in North County, environmentalists now wonder if that plan is being used to the benefit of a controversial project near San Marcos.

Newland Communities is looking to build 2,100 homes just west of Interstate 15, on land that is home to gnatcatchers, a bird whose endangered status helped spawn decades of land-use planning across the county.

Ry Rivard writes that Newland Sierra is now included on a list of already approved projects in the Multi-Species Conservation Plan for North County, even though the project has yet to earn the approval of the County Board of Supervisors. That gives the project predictability and cost savings, among other benefits.

Dan Silver, the head of the Endangered Habitats League who serves on the steering committee for the conservation plan, says including Newland Sierra in a list of approved projects gives the impression that it’s already approved, and puts pressure on agencies tasked with protecting wildlife to hold their objections.

“There would be political pressure on them to put away their red pencil,” he said.

Newland says more than half of its land will remain undeveloped, and recently bought land in Ramona to preserve. They say their project amounts to 700 acres in a 290,000-acre conservation plan, and critics – including the neighboring Golden Door spa, which sells the experience of a tranquil escape – just want to stop the project, and not necessarily protect the environment.

Anti-Sharia Law and Islam Supporters Demonstrate in Oceanside

Two groups – one opposed to Sharia law, and another in support of Islam – held rallies that turned into a shouting match at the Oceanside Pier, the Union-Tribune reports.

The encounter was part of a wave of demonstrations organized by ACT for America, against virtually nonexistent Islamic law in America. Those demonstrations were met by often larger counter-protests, in support of Islam and defending what protesters said are distortions of the religion.

“Their beliefs do not abide by the Constitution of the United States, so our job today is to educate people to make them understand,” Duane Siegmann told the U-T. “Don’t bring Sharia law in here because it’s designed to take over the government.”

There’s no evidence that local, state or federal governments are under the influence of Sharia law.

The other side held signs saying “Love” and “Protest bigotry and racism,” and described misunderstandings about Islam.

“They believe that Muslims are trying to implement Sharia law in this country and totally replace the Constitution, which is impossible. The first point of Sharia law, if you study Sharia law at all, is to respect the lands that you’re in,” said Mustafa Nizam, who coordinated the counter-protest, according to the U-T.

Oceanside Scraps Arts Funding

In this week’s Culture Report, Kinsee Morlan writes that even though Oceanside is looking to up its arts game, the City Council isn’t willing to commit more money to do it.

The Arts Commission is currently developing a master plan for the arts in the city, and recently requested that their $25,000 budget be doubled. The City Council shot that down, though, leaving Oceanside far below other cities, in terms of spending per capita.

While the commission doesn’t have money to help groups that approach the city, they are forming partnerships to get things done. The commission recently worked with the library, the Museum of Art, and Mainstreet Oceanside to get part of Oceanside as a finalist for designation as a cultural district, which could bring in state support for the arts.

Opinion: North County Cases Highlight Need for Sanctuary State Bill

Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, says the fate of two immigrants in North County highlight the need for a separation between local police and federal immigration authorities.

Chavez-Peterson describes the case of a Vista liquor store clerk who was deported after a routine interaction with a police officer (he hadn’t committed a crime) and who died trying to get back to his family, and an Escondido woman deported after reporting her boyfriend for domestic violence.

Those actions sent a message to undocumented immigrants: Don’t come into contact with local law enforcement, Chavez-Peterson writes.

In an opinion piece, Chavez-Peterson urged legislators in Sacramento to pass Senate Bill 54, which would prevent local police agencies from using their resources to aid immigration enforcement.

Also in the News

 Vista adopted a district map, completing the change to by-district City Council elections. The first two council districts will be up for a vote in 2018. (Union-Tribune)

 A look inside life at a homeless camp in Oceanside. (KPBS)

 Southern California Edison failed to prove fraud and undermined its own case for damages when it delayed repairs and ultimately closed San Onofre, an arbitrator found. (Union-Tribune)

 Swami’s will open a restaurant in Vista Village, bringing new business to an area that recently saw many vacancies. (Union-Tribune)

 Property owners are suing Del Mar over a recent determination that short-term rentals are banned throughout most of the city. (The Coast News)

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

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