RUDYVILLE – R.I.P
Last updated 10/5/2018 at 9:11am
The final public Hearing before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on DS-24, the Borrego Country Estates’ (aka Rudyville) request for increased housing density, was the culmination of more than a decade of controversy. According to Hearing attendees, it was nip and tuck to the end. The result was a motion by District 2 Supervisor Diane Jacob to vote on the County staff position that no density increase be approved. The motioned carried 3 – 2.
“It was a nail-biter up to the end, and a great surprise, a feeling of shock, even as at the end things moved quickly to the electronic 3 – 2 vote. I heard one person say, ‘What, is this true? I don’t have to be upset?! They actually made a decision! This is an early Christmas present.’ It was a great day for Borrego Springs. After 11 – 12 years of Rudyville, we got the decision we wanted.”
~ Betsy Knaak, executive director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association.
More than 100 Borregans attended the hearing, some coming on a bus, others driving themselves. The focus was on making voices heard, and they were. The developers wanted increased housing density, but locals en masse, rose up against the planned increase. The locals prevailed, and Borrego Country Estates is now in a state limbo, pending options available to the developers.
“The Partnership is naturally disappointed with the County Supervisors’ vote. We agree with Bill Horn that, in the end, it’s a fairness issue: We bought the land in good faith, we’ve abided by all the rules and regs and documentation requirements, and we’ve attempted compromise solutions. However, certain individuals have had a powerful voice over what we believe to be scientifically sound environmental concerns and remedies for mitigation. At this point, we are considering various options – building single-family homes on previously approved lots, State or County purchase (or private sale) if the price is right, waiting until the Borrego real estate market improves, and/or a more positive outlook for water availability once the GSP is implemented.”
~ Chris Brown, Owner/Partner of Borrego Country Estates.
It was Dave Duncan who succinctly laid out the arithmetic for the Supervisors, showing convincingly that aquifer resources were, according the nearly 75% cutback in State-mandated groundwater use, not guaranteed to meet even the needs of current residents, much less hundreds if not thousands more.
“I would like to quickly walk you through a back-of-the-envelope calculation of potential water use in Borrego: As a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, pumpers will need to reduce water use by 74.6% in order to reach a sustainable yield of approximately 5,700 acre-feet per year. Even if we are able to totally zero out agricultural use, we still have four major golf courses using roughly 3,000 acre-feet per year. The BWD pumps an average of 2,000 acre-feet per year for municipal use,so that totals 5,000 acre-feet, leaving 700 acre-feet for potential growth. Using the current assumption of one-half acre-foot per household, that’s only enough water to supply 1,400 edu’s, far short of the 3,700 edu’s already approved. It is with little or no certainty that any additional approvals could be serviced.”
~ Dave Duncan, recently elected BWD Director and former Ratepayer Representative to the GSP Advisory Committee.
One of the contentious aspects of the Rudyville project was the notion of outside developers who don’t live here coming to Borrego to merely make a profit off land sales, regardless of environmental and socio-economic impacts. One surprising development to hearing attendees was the desire by outgoing supervisor Bill Horn to put off the vote for further study. The collective gasp from the audience was palpable.
Diane Jacob came to the rescue to the relief of Borregan attendees.
“A triumphant day. The Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy group did an excellent preparation for their own presentation and helping with others – very professional, and they were hard to argue against. I think our community did a wonderful job overall. Supervisor Horn was going to topple the whole thing, but Diane Jacob saved the day. She framed our main argument as to why they couldn’t upzone. She was fantastic.”
~ Rebecca Falk, Borrego Springs Sponsor Group.
The technical planning issues surrounding the Rudyville project have all served to merely highlight the one issue that could not and cannot be answered with a high degree of certainty: Will we have enough water for current residents, plus a slow increase in population for the duration of the GSP implementation phase, ending in 2040?
The supervisors needed to hear arguments, and they got plenty. Key among the deciding factors was apparently a letter from our BWD that highlighted the legal morass the County faced if it made a ruling in violation of CEQA requirements. Supervisor Jacob got the message, and she got two other votes to kill the upzoning request.
“The testimony in support of the county staff’s recommendation to keep DS-24 as originally designated in the General Plan was wonderful, eloquent and convincing. I am so glad Diane Jacob heard the truth of it and spoke with enough reason and common sense to bring in a vote to put the fight over rezoning to an end. Kudos to David Garmon for organizing parts of the testimony and the bus to transport supporters.”
~ Kathy Dice, newly elected BWD Director and former Park Superintendent.
At the previous critical hearing, Bill Wright, long-time resident and former owner of the RoadRunner Club and The Springs at Borrego RV Park & Golf Course, and his family, funded the bus, rally hats, and lunch for all Borrego attendees. He did not attend the final meeting.
“I’m very pleased with our village.” ~ Bill Wright
Some Borregans who attended the hearing were neophytes when it came to local politics and representation, but their passion on the upzoning subject overcame any fear of getting up in front of the supervisors and the public and airing their views.
In the final analysis, the dogged persistence, year after year after year, of local residents to make right what they felt was a wrong-headed idea in the first place made a difference in the outcome.
“It was quite a prolonged battle to save the neighborhood and the beautiful ocotillo forest near where I live. I am so proud of the people of Borrego for standing up for our desert – our quality of life, night sky, water reserves – and simply for what is right. 1,500 Borregans signed a petition to keep the zoning the way it is, one home per ten acres. Likely, 75 – 100 Borregans drove into San Diego, or rode the chartered bus, to attend the hearing. Many gave heartfelt testimony that won the day. One citizen who traveled and spoke is 95 years old, and a neighbor flew all the way back down from Washington just to testify and have his opinions heard. Supervisor Horn did not stand up for what more than 90% of Borregans wanted, but Supervisor Dianne Jacob certainly did, and she saved the entire project from being sent back to planners for “compromise. It was very apparent at the Hearing that the people of Borrego love Borrego the way it is: They love being surrounded by one of the largest State Parks in the nation; they love their quality of life; they are very concerned about creating a plan for water sustainability; and they know a boondoggle project when they see one. I am proud of our local citizens and am so glad to be counted among them. They are great neighbors in a great town.”
~ Mark Jorgensen – resident, naturalist author and speaker, and former Park Superintendent.
If nothing else, the spirit of community commitment and cooperation by concerned citizens showed how to prevail against city hall. A lesson for the future, to be sure.