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Voters across San Diego County will decide Tuesday whether to allow the developer of Newland Sierra to build 2,135 homes, a school site, retail and parks north of Escondido in the Merriam Mountains.
At the Escondido and San Marcos public libraries, voters who live near the site of the proposed development overwhelmingly said they don’t approve of the project because they believe it would negatively affect their quality of life by increasing traffic and housing costs. Others said they’re voting against it because they’re concerned its approval will promote sprawl in wildfire zones.
In September 2018, the Board of Supervisors amended the county general plan so that the project could proceed, but more than 117,000 county residents signed a petition to force the decision to the March ballot.
Rex Houser, a resident of Escondido, said he doesn’t like Measure B because it promotes sprawl. He said the county needs to handle its lack of affordable housing in other ways, like putting it in existing urban areas.
“I think in the short term I know we need more housing, more affordable housing, all the things that they say, except in the long term it does promote sprawl,” Houser said. “I’m a natural space kind of person. I love California, but I may have to give up California for many reasons, but one of the reasons is sprawl.”
Stephanie Boren, an Escondido resident who voted at a church across the street from the Escondido library, said she voted no on Measure B, because she’s concerned about the developer’s lack of transparency.
“I think there’s too much hidden stuff and they don’t tell you all the truth,” Boren said.
She also cited wildfire danger.
“Some of those developments, there’s only one road in and one road out,” she said. “I have friends who are sheriffs and cops up there and they say unfortunately when they do those developments they have to figure in a percentage of loss and that to me is just unacceptable.”
In San Marcos, voters said their major concerns centered on the additional traffic the development would bring to the already congested 78 freeway. The developers behind Newland Sierra have said they plan to expand Deer Springs Road if the project is approved by voters.
Abbas Masifi, a San Marcos resident who voted at the San Marcos Library, said he voted no” on Measure B and called it “poor planning.” He said the location can’t support any additional cars on the road.
“I live in San Marcos and I’d hate to see another 2,000 houses go up right next to me. I’m already having enough trouble with the traffic with the way it is and they don’t have any plans to take care of the extra capacity that’s required,” Masifi said. “They don’t have a real plan or infrastructure that is needed to support this.”
Julie Edging, who lived in San Marcos for 16 years and visits her children and grandchildren in San Marcos, said she’s voting against the development because she’s worried the homes are not safe if the area experienced a natural disaster like a wildfire.
“And the outgrowth and traffic,” Edging said. “Traffic’s a really big issue because there’s already a lot of traffic. Traffic on the 78 is horrible. I come up here to see my children and my grandchildren and to get home safely and I always have to wait for the traffic to pass.”
Edging said even though the project’s developers say they’ll build housing that’s affordable for teachers and first responders, she’s concerned about housing for people who make the minimum wage. The developers behind Newland Sierra have said the development won’t create additional wildfire risks and more than 60 percent of its housing will be affordable for working-class families.
“San Marcos is already so expensive. What they’re building is $500,000 to $800,000 to million-dollar homes so it is really pushing out the laborers, the common blue-collar workers … it’s pushing us out,” Edging said. “San Marcos was once an affordable city and now 20 years later it’s not, no matter how much we make.”