EIR no longer required for ‘Desert Rose’


The California Court of Appeal last week overturned a trial court’s decision requiring that the developer behind the controversial “Desert Rose” development must complete an environmental impact report.

Save Desert Rose, a group of residents fighting the 16-home development in Olivenhain, has argued that the project would create traffic problems and harm a nearby wetland. After the Encinitas City Council approved the development, the organization filed a lawsuit seeking further environmental review.

A lower trial court ruled in Save Desert Rose’s favor. But in reversing that decision, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal stated “there is no substantial evidence” to argue that the development would have a significant effect on the environment under standards of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Attorney Marco Gonzalez, representing project developer Woodridge Farms Estates, said in a statement that the ruling is “vindication for the environment and affordable housing.”

“Given the environmental enhancements and the affordable housing being provided, this is not a circumstance where an EIR (environmental impact report) should have been required,” Gonzalez said.

Bill Butler of Save Desert Rose said in an email the decision was disappointing.

“There are some very critical issues that are of concern with this project and a full environmental impact report would have shed a more unbiased light on them,” Butler wrote. “We remain fearful of the detrimental impacts that the proposed development will have on the environment, traffic, fire safety, erosion and the effect on the wetland area.”

Butler said Save Desert Rose recently directed its attorney to file paperwork appealing the case to the California Supreme Court. Now it’s a question of whether the court will agree to hear it.

Before Save Desert Rose announced this, Gonzalez said in an email that he doubted whether appealing to the Supreme Court would “prove a viable option.”

If the court declines the case, it’s expected that project grading will begin next spring and construction not long after.

Desert Rose marked the first high-profile fight in Encinitas over California’s “density bonus” law. The law aims to create affordable housing, but critics say it kills community character in neighborhoods.

Under the law, Woodridge Farms Estates was granted the 16 homes, in exchange for setting aside one unit for a low-income family. City zoning would have allowed 11 homes.