Rudyville is Dead, Again… Really
Last updated 4/1/2021 at 11:06am
On February 25, 2021 the San Diego County Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) announced it had “discontinued” a six-year old project designed to respond to 60 property owners from across the county who claimed to have been damaged by the implementation of the County’s General Plan in 2015.
These property owners filed Property Specific Requests (PSRs) for a General Plan Amendment (GPA) for zoning changes to their individual parcels that would be more to their liking. The County bundled these 60 requests into a single project; and most importantly, agreed to spend taxpayer money for studies that would be prohibitively expensive on an individual basis, but that would be required before any Amendment to the General Plan could be granted under any circumstances.
One of the property owners making such a damage claim was the syndicate that purchased in 2005 a 170-acre parcel of pristine desert habitat just south of the Country Club neighborhood and west of Borrego Springs Road. This parcel is home to an ancient ocotillo forest that greets visitors approaching Borrego Springs from the south (See photo). In terms of visitors looking for wildflowers in the springtime, this location is second in popularity only to Henderson Valley.
The lead investor of this syndicate was Rudy Monica. Other investors were from out of state. And one investor, Chris Brown, had previously worked as the land use staff person for Supervisor Bill Horn. The stated purpose of the investors was to subdivide their parcel into 170 one-acre residential lots. On a map, their plan looked like simple residential infill. On the ground, their plan looked like the devastation of one of Borrego Springs most iconic ecological landmarks: an ancient ocotillo forest that had been noted on visitor’s maps since the late 1940’s.
The investors’ plans first came to the attention of the Tubb Canyon and Country Club neighborhoods, which were closest in proximity. Residents of these neighborhoods were uniformly opposed to the plan. The reasons for opposition included the destruction of the ocotillo forest, the destruction of habitat of endangered species, the plan’s suggestion of taking private property for a massive flood control project, the negative impacts on Borrego’s tourism economy, and the fact that there were already thousands of unsold residential lots in Borrego Springs.
As opposition spread to the rest of the Borrego community, the project earned the derisive moniker Rudyville, after its lead investor. The Rudyville plan came before the Community Sponsor Group on three occasions, and each time received a negative recommendation. On April 7, 2016 more than 160 community members attended an overflow meeting of the Sponsor Group to discuss Rudyville. Public opposition to the plan was unanimous. Not one person spoke in favor of it. Nevertheless, the County’s Property Specific Request project ground on, always with the threat that the County Board of Supervisors could approve the Rudyville plan despite public sentiment in Borrego or the views of the Community Sponsor Group.
Rudyville came to a head on September 12, 2018 when the County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on Rudyville’s Property Specific Request that would allow it to create 170 one-acre residential lots. Many Borregans made the trip to the Board of Supervisors’ meeting in San Diego on a bus chartered by the Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy. Those Borregans who attended the meeting spoke passionately about the town they loved and what it would mean to lose the iconic landmark at the southern entrance into town. Supervisor Horn was indifferent to the voices of his constituents, and ultimately voted against them. It was Supervisor Diane Jacob who responded to the pleas of Borrego residents and cast the deciding vote that sent Rudyville down to a very unexpected defeat. The drama of the meeting was chronicled in these pages (“Borrego Wins Battle of Borrego,” Oct. 8, 2018). The banner headline of this newspaper (Borrego Sun) read, “Rudyville – R.I.P.” The community of Borrego had prevailed against wealth against indifferent political representation against political insiders.
Well, almost. The stunning victory at the Board of Supervisors could only become law upon the completion of the entire project for the 60 property owners who had initially filed the Specific Property Requests for a General Plan Amendment. And this project was dependent upon the County completing its Climate Action Plan, which was held up in litigation for two years. This meant Borrego’s victory at the Board of Supervisors could potentially be relitigated by the new Board of Supervisors elected to office in 2020, and potentially reversed.
That was the threat until the announcement last week by PDS that the project handling the 60 Property Specific Requests for a General Plan Amendment had been “discontinued.” The project is over, which means Rudyville’s request to increase its zoning density to one-acre lots is no longer, and will never again be, supported by taxpayer money. Rudyville really is dead this time.