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.)
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
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:
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
Alta Mira developer representatives and local Joshua Tree residents.
Here is MBCA's detailed Comment Letter on Alta Mira .
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
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.
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 - IS, page 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 - IS, page 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
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 - IS, page 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: 2007, 2010 and 2013
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.
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
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that nurtures our rural character,
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THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT THE MORONGO BASIN.