Land Development

desert_scenic.jpg
Morongo Basin residents cherish our region for its open spaces, native plant life, spring wildflowers, scenic views, wildlife encounters, clean air, and dark night skies.  To maintain these natural and rewarding conditions, MBCA provides information and encourages public comment on land development that may threaten the very conditions that make our region unique and eminently livable and enjoyable.

Problems that arise from poorly-planned developments include excessive dust from land scraping, blocking of wildlife corridors, flooding, and traffic and safety issues. 

dust_storm_near_Cascade_Solar.jpg

Past developments of concern have included poorly-sited solar fields and a casino.  More recently, an inappropriately large gated housing subdivision (see information on Alta Mira below), a chain store, and another poorly-sited solar field have been of concern.  

Our latest information on land development issues in the Morongo Basin will be provided on this page and the MBCA News page.

 

  • MBCA Opinion Piece in Hi Desert Star

    Read MBCA's editorial published in the Hi Desert Star on October 29, 2016.  It describes the problems with the County Supervisors' decision about the Altamira Housing Development and the lawsuit that has been filed by Joshua Tree residents. 

    Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: September 12, 2016

    • Altamira Gated Housing Appeal hearing - Sept. 13 
    • DRECP Record of Decision (ROD) Event – Sept. 14 

    We are all welcome to attend an event this Wednesday to mark the Record of Decision (ROD) that initiates the long anticipated DRECP (Desert Renewable Conservation Plan). Apologies for the late notice – MBCA just learned of it. Find the Department of Interior’s invitation below with details. 

    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: August 29, 2016

    • Altamira Gated Housing Project
    • Joshua Tree Solar Farm
    • Soda Mountain Solar Project 
    • Dollar General Store vs. Joshua Tree
    • Homestead Valley & Pioneertown Community Plans
    • MBCA Desert Wise Living fall lecture 


    SAVE THE DATES:
    • Alta Mira Gated Housing Appeal hearing preparation – Sept. 1
    • Alta Mira Gated Housing Appeal hearing - Sept. 13
    • Homestead Valley & Pioneertown Community Plans – see below
    • MBCA Desert Wise Living fall lecture – Sept. 24  

    Recent decisions were made on a couple long standing issues of concern to MBCA and our conservation partners. Opposition wages on as several others continue to wind their way through decision makers. We can however finally celebrate one wonderful victory. 

    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: June 4, 2016

    • Joshua Tree Airport Solar: Next Era solar project on 115 acres
    • Alta Mira Gated Community Housing Project: 248 homes on 105.24 acres
    • Proposed Dollar General Store goes back to court
    • Camp Rock Solar / Camp Rock Road, Lucerne Valley
    • Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project ("Cadiz")
    • Eagle Mountain / JTNP Boundary Study
    • YV High School student Julia Martinez receives MBCA support
    • MBCA celebrated Emeritus Director Esther Herbert
    • 2016 Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour a great success!

    Things are warming up now finally after a cool May, eh? Hope your swamp coolers are serviced and ready to go for the summer ahead!
     
    There are several updates to long-standing campaigns and issues, also a new problematic solar project in Lucerne Valley. I believe the public interest in these issues and the willingness to respond are one of the Morongo Basin’s greatest assets. We want to continue to live in a healthy environment and there are definitely threats nipping at our heels that call for our attention and deserve a response!
    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: April 13, 2016

    • Joshua Tree Airport Solar Farm: Planning Commission hearing - April 21st
    • Alta Mira Gated Community Housing Project: 248 homes on 105.24 acres
    • National Park Service completes Eagle Mountain Boundary Study


    I hope you can clear your schedules to take in the conservation-oriented events coming our way in coming days. Several critically important meetings for projects MBCA has been monitoring now require our attention. Of course, we can’t do “it all,” but hopefully you can find time to participate. We DO make a difference. Our presence and vigilance are being called on this spring to educate the community and decision makers!
    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: April 5, 2016 (2)

    • National Park Service completes Eagle Mountain Boundary Study
    • Altamira Gated Community Housing Project: 248 homes on 105.24 acres
    • SPARC Forum, Phase 2
    • MBCA Events Calendar

    National Park Service completes Eagle Mountain Boundary Study

    The National Park Service has completed the Eagle Mountain Boundary Study Including Possible Withdrawal Environmental Assessment (boundary study/EA). The document reflects the comments and concerns shared with the study team during public scoping in Summer 2015. The NPS received approximately 11,000 comments during the scoping period. Last August, many MBCA members & supporters participated in this process. We have another opportunity now!
    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: March 21, 2016

    Altamira Housing project: MEETING RESCHEDULED TO THURSDAY March 24th!

    Alta Mira Housing project: MEETING RESCHEDULED TO THURSDAY!

    WHEN: Thursday, March 24th – 9:00 am
    WHERE: Joshua Tree County Government Center (videoconference)
     
    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Eblast: March 15, 2016

    • Alta Mira Housing project: IMPORTANT MEETING THIS THURSDAY!
    • Update on Joshua Tree Airport Solar Field Project (NextEra)
    • SPARC Forum – Phase 2: Community Outreach
    • San Bernardino County Renewable Energy & Conservation Element

    Alta Mira Housing project: IMPORTANT MEETING THIS THURSDAY!
    We’ve just learned about an important SB Co. Planning Commission meeting.
    WHEN: Thursday, March 17th – 9:00 am
    WHERE: Joshua Tree County Government Center (videoconference)
    Continue reading → Add your reaction Share
  • Featured Events

    April 2017 Update
    While we cannot say that there has been an end to plans for the Alta Mira housing project in the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree, the JT 105 Alliance citizens' group has informed MBCA that the developers have recently offered the project land for sale.  Below is an update from the Alliance and also links to some of the documents involved in the ongoing legal efforts to stop or change the plan for the Alta Mira Housing Development in the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree.
     
    (You can read background information, MBCA’s comment letters, and other reports of earlier Alta Mira Project actions by scrolling through this entire page.)
     
    1)  A summary of the current situation is presented in this Press Release from the JT105 Alliance.
     
    2)  The Alliance provided a copy of the October 28, 2016 CEQA petition they filed that outlined all the points of concern about the development.
     
    3)  In January 2017, the Alliance proposed to the developers a settlement offer that included two very specific alternative revisions to their existing development plan that would be much more acceptable to the alliance and many Joshua Tree residents who have been concerned about the very “urban” plan proposed by the developers.  As the Alliance wrote, “We are not anti-development; we respect smart and ecologically-sensitive development.”
         The "Stay" legal agreement of March 17, 2017 will be posted here when available.  Here's an explanatory paragraph about the stay from the Alliance update:
         "A six-month stay was agreed upon, on March 17, so that the developers could explore these options, during which they are not to pursue any permits for construction. Shortly after the agreement, a community member notified the Alliance that the developers had listed the project for sale, with the tract map approval as a key marketing point. If they were to sell the land, the lawsuit, and the wrath of hundreds, would be inherited by the new owner." 
     

     

    October 2016 Update
    Read MBCA's editorial in the Hi Desert Star on October 29, 2016.  It describes the problems with the County Supervisors' decision about the Altamira Housing Development and the lawsuit that has been filed by Joshua Tree residents. 

     

    September 2016 Update

    Tuesday, September 27 - San Bernardino County Supervisors voted 3-2 to deny the appeal, thereby approving the Altamira Housing project to go forward.  

    The 2 votes for the appeal, therefore against the project, were District 3 Supervisor James Ramos and District 1 Supervisor Robert Lovingood.

     

    Read MBCA's September 12, 2016 submission to the Hi Desert Star "Guest Soapbox" about the Altamira appeal.

     

    REPORT ON THE SEPTEMBER 13 SUPERVISORS' HEARING ON YV105 LLP, AKA THE ALTAMIRA HOUSING PROJECT

    Supervisors Meeting September 13, 1016

    Action Recorded on the Altamira Issue

     This is a summary of what happened during the Altamira Housing Project agenda Item at the San Bernardino County Supervisors Meeting of September 13, 2016.  Agenda item #102 included a public hearing to consider the appeal by JT105 Alliance, and the staff had recommended that the Supervisors deny the appeal and go forward with the project.

     Acting as representative for the JT105 Alliance appeal, Pat Flanagan made a very detailed, specific, and comprehensive statement of all the myriad problems with the project.

    Here are the PowerPoint slides Pat presented.  Here are the notes that she presented with each slide.

    Then the Project Applicant YV105, LLP made their case.  Public Comment was then opened, where about 30 people (most at the videoconference room at the Burke Government Center in Joshua Tree and several in San Bernardino) made eloquent, impassioned, and well-researched statements opposing the project. 

     Among the topics addressed were traffic safety, fire safety, native plant removal and other environmental issues, the presence of tortoises, water issues, historical (and questionable) up-zoning of the project property, and the incongruence of such a high density project in Joshua Tree.  Repeated many times was the concern that the project plan never even mentioned the Joshua Tree Community Plan, and that state law requires that it be considered for such a project.  In fact, according to both state and county law the Community Plan became part of the General Plan when adopted in 2007. At that time, according to the General Plan, the zoning should have been returned to its original density and it was not. 

     Both the project applicant and JT 105 Alliance’s representative were given one more 5-minute comment opportunity.

     Supervisor Ramos made a motion to accept the appeal and deny the project, and Supervisor Lovingood seconded the motion.  But then, the County’s attorney indicated there would be legal difficulties if the vote on this motion were 2-2.  It was a complicated matter related to the County’s need to have “findings” supporting the denial.  The Supervisors present also appeared to prefer the full attendance of all 5 Supervisors to conduct this vote.  So Supervisor Rutherford, although stating that she was “for” the project, moved to Continue the decision to the next meeting.  The other 3 Supervisors present agreed.  We are uncertain under what protocol Supervisor Ramos’s motion to accept the appeal and deny the project was “dropped.”

    So the issue will be taken up again at the next Supervisors’ meeting on September 27.

     Here is the original agenda item and the conclusion (Continued to next meeting) as it appears on the County website:

    Land Use Services

     

    102.

    1   Conduct a public hearing to consider an appeal of the Planning Commission approval of Tentative Tract Map 18255 to create 248 single-family residential lots; one community center; and 41 lettered lots for private streets, landscaping and drainage facilities; and a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for construction of a sewage package treatment plant to serve the YV 105/Altamira residential development Project in Joshua Tree:

    a                     Appellant: JT105 Alliance

    b                     Applicant: Ron Schwartz, YV 105 LLP

    2   Deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission approval of Tentative Tract Map 18255 and Conditional Use Permit for the YV 105/Altamira Project, subject to the conditions of approval recommended by the Planning Commission.

    3   Adopt the recommended findings for approval.

    4   Adopt the Mitigated Negative Declaration.

    5   Direct the Clerk of the Board to File a Notice of Determination.

    (Presenter: Terri Rahhal, Planning Director, 387-4431)

     

    CONTINUED TO TUES., SEPT 27, 2016

    Motion/Second: Janice Rutherford/Curt Hagman

    AYES: Robert A. Lovingood, Janice Rutherford, James Ramos, Curt Hagman

    ABSENT: Josie Gonzales

     

    March 24, 2016 Update

    LATEST ALTAMIRA INFORMATION from MBCA

    Thursday, March 24, 2016 - The Planning Commission meeting about the Altamira project was again cancelled and rescheduled for Thursday, April 7.  Read the Z107.7 story for a summary of the residents' commentaries and the action of the Commission on March 24.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016 - The teleconferenced County Planning Commission meeting about the Altamira housing project was rescheduled to Thursday, March 24th at 9:00 AM.  Due to a traffic accident that resulted in a downed power pole, the Joshua Tree Government Center could not provide videoconference service that had been set up.  About 40 residents who appeared at 9 AM to make public comments about the project waited about an hour until this rescheduling decision was made. 


    More background on Altamira

    The link below is a series of recent detailed emails from MBCA Vice President David Fick, trying to make sure the San Bernardino Planning Staff fully inform the Planning Commission about the overwhelming number of concerns in the Joshua Tree and Morongo Basin communities about the Altamira Gated Community Housing Project.

    NOTE:  Several links to web documents and videos are highlighted in blue in this PDF document, but to open them you must go back to this page, using the the links listed below, which are in the sequence they are found in this document, with comments to help you identify them. 

    Click here to read David Fick's series of emails to the County Planning Department 

     

     

    March 15, 2016 Update

    The San Bernardino County Planning Commission will be addressing the Alta Mira Housing Project at 9:00 AM on Thursday, March 17.    Click here for the staff report on the project that was submitted to the Planning Commission.  (We will continue to refer to the project as "Alta Mira" although the formal project name is YV 105/LLP Terra Nova.)  
    The Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council unanimously approved a resolution against this project on March 14, 2016.

    Results of the March 17 Planning Commission session will be reported on this page.  SEE MARCH 19TH ENTRY ABOVE.

    READ BELOW FOR BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND MBCA'S DETAILED COMMENT LETTER SUBMITTED LAST FEBRUARY.

     

    February 2, 2015 Update

    Here is the transcript of the radio news report by KCDZ 107.7 about the January 30 meeting between
    Alta Mira developer representatives and local Joshua Tree residents.

    Here is MBCA's detailed Comment Letter on Alta Mira .

    You may reach San Bernardino County Senior Planner Chris Warrick about this issue at  cwarrick@lusd.sbcounty.gov    
    or mail printed comments to: 
    Chris Warrick, Senior Planner
    County of San Bernardino 
    Land Use Services Department - Planning Division 
    385 North Arrowhead Avenue, First Floor 
    San Bernardino, CA 92415-0182
    BACKGROUND

    Originally proposed more than 8 years ago, this 105 acre, 248-home gated community housing project plan has undergone revisions.  What follows is MBCA's detailed review of various aspects of concern.  Links to supportive websites and documents are provided throughout this page.

    A video of the 2009 MAC meeting where the project was discussed is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX2h4GhEbGA.  The discussions and comments are spirited, informed, and remain relevant. Terra Nova was also at that meeting to present the project and answer questions.

    Note 1:  All page references in the Commentary below refer to the project’s Initial Study, hereafter referred to as IS, and available here.  This describes the entire project.  You may also want to read the brief document that states the proponent's intent to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration, indicating their belief that all environmental factors in the Initial Study have "less than significant impact."  Here is the link to this so-called Notice of Availability, also referenced in the commentary as the MND.

    Note 2: The word ‘gated’ no longer appears in the description although in the Tentative Tract Map illustration it appears surrounded by a wall. There is a 6-foot high concrete block wall at the perimeter of the project adjacent to the school. The wall shall be constructed of decorative material consistent with the other walls throughout the project. Mitigation XII-2, page 59.

     

    MBCA Commentary

    In order for the community to fully review the project, MBCA requested that the County Planning Department upload the Project Specific documents on the county website. This was not deemed possible, but we were provided all of the documents on a CD.  Although some documents were too large to upload to our website, we have provided summary and essential information from those large documents. 

     

    The 30 day comment period opened on August 13, 2014 and closes on Friday September 12, 2014. At the end of the 30 day comment period the project can proceed with no additional documentation or public input to the Planning Commission for approval.

     

    Based on the public controversy that has followed this project from the beginning MBCA feels that the IS/MND does not serve the public’s need for a complete environmental review and that an EIR is necessary under CEQA.  

    Selected Issues of Environmental Concern:

    Transportation/Traffic - ISpage 47

    Our abridged version of the Revised Traffic Impact Analysis is available here.  

    The Alta Loma project wraps around two sides of the school and will have an entrance/exit on to both Sunny Vista and Alta Loma. Parents and neighboring homes experience daily traffic jams during Friendly Hills Elementary School drop off and pick up times. The intersection of Sunny Vista and Alta Loma is a magnet for traffic and the sidewalks a danger zone for pedestrians.

    The traffic analysis does not include Friendly Hills Elementary School in the project description nor is it located on the maps. For examples see Figure 1 - Project Location Map; Figure 10 - Project Average Daily traffic Volumes; or Figure 11 - Project Morning Peak Hour Intersection Turning Movement Volumes. (Check traffic volumes on Figures 10 and 11.) Using Adobe Search there were no hits for ‘Friendly Hills Elementary School’, ‘Elementary School’, or ‘School’. The daily trips by parents to drop off and pick up their children at Friendly Hills Elementary School are not included in the traffic analysis. There is no explanation for this. If the project is built a dangerous situation will only become more dangerous. This analysis is flawed at its core and is not usable for this project.

     

    Public Services/Fire Protection - ISpage 43

    Joshua Tree NP to the south of the development is not mentioned in the IS. However, the foothills of Quail Mountain that reach out from the park into the community are identified by Cal Fire as a State Responsibility Area. Wildland lightening strike fires moving out of the park are not unknown. In the event of a fire what is the plan for staging fire firefighting equipment and the emergency evacuation of residents from the surrounding neighborhoods, the 248 houses in Alta Mira project, and the school?.  Comments from the Fire Department are needed?

    Here is a map that shows the CalFire State Responsibility Area around the proposed development.  The white square with the black dot on the north boundary of the yellow SRA is Friendly Hills Elementary School.  

    Another fire-related map shows fire history in Joshua Tree National Park.  A number of major fires have occurred only a few miles south of the proposed development.

     

    Utilities and Service Systems

    Water

    Joshua Basin water district has indicated that it is able and willing to serve the proposed project.  IS, XVII d page 51

    This is no longer true, the will serve notification has expired and our entire state is in severe drought with mandatory conservation measures in place. The Alta Mira project is not included in the 2010 JBWD Urban Water Management Plan. JBWD has not yet been approached so has yet to determine its ability to serve this new community during construction or at buildout.

     

    Hydrology and Water Quality  - IS, page 33

    Estimates are that the project will use  45,000 gallons of water a day for potable consumption based on a usage factor of 69.3 gallons per person per day. This is the average consumption for indoor usage and does not address outdoor landscaping, which, even with desert adapted plants, is more consumptive that indoor usage. The calculations for water usage at buildout are in error. Figures used for calculations must be supplied by JBWD.

     

    For Water Use During Construction, reference the following:

    Air Quality Mitigation - IS, III-1 AQ-Dust Control Plan page 17

    -Exposed soil must be kept wet during grading – water at least 2 times a day

    -Any portion of the site to be graded shall be pre-watered to a depth of three feet prior to the onset of grading activities.

    -(and 10 additional requirements that use water.)

     

    The 248 10,000 square foot and larger lots could have impacts on the water supply. A detailed approved plan should be in place before construction begins. The plan should include the county updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, Landscaping Standards, and Plant Protection and Maintenance. Details are important; for instance, where will the approximately 1000 Joshua Trees and possibly twice as many Mojave Yucca be stored and cared for before replanting and who monitors the ‘nursery’ and plan compliance?

     

    Biological resources  - ISpage 19

    Desert Tortoise and Wildlife Linkage

    The project is located within an area where residents have seen the threatened Desert Tortoise. The results of studies by Circle Mountain Biological Consultants for the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) and others have identified tortoise sign in 21 surveys on numerous sites in areas surrounding the proposed development. Map here.

     

    Timing of tortoise survey  

    The tortoise update survey was conducted on Dec. 6, 2013 when tortoise are underground for the winter. This survey needs to be updated during the desert tortoises’ most active periods -- April through May or September through October if there have been winter storms.

     

    Surrounding Conservation Lands

    Since the Alta Mira project was introduced in 2006 the MDLT has made a considerable investment in land to preserve the linkage corridors between Joshua Tree National Park and the Marine Base. To date they have acquired Sec. 33 – 640; Sec.9 - 530 acres; Quail Mtn. Project - 955 acres; Nolina Peak - 639 acres (conveyed to JTNP) as part of their Wildlife Linkage Campaign.  Map here.

     

    Terra Nova (consultant) General Biological Reports:  20072010 and 2013

    Aesthetics

    Conservation Values

    The IS does not identify impacts to the scenic vistas, resources, or visual character of the area. The IS does not reference the Joshua Tree Community Plan 2007 nor does it reference the  Morongo Basin Conservation Priorities Report 2012 and the mapping program which analyzes conservation values at the parcel level.

     

    Cultural Studies

    Here is a report about historical and archaeological studies.

     

    Finally, if you wish to learn more about the conditions that trigger the decision to prepare an EIR, click here

     

    Morongo Basin Conservation Association advocates for

    a healthy desert environment

    that nurtures our rural character,

    cultural wealth, and

    economic well-being.

    THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT THE MORONGO BASIN.  


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.