Land Development

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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. 

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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.

 

  • Paradise Valley Voted Down by Riverside County Planning Commission

    We received word from MBCA President Steve Bardwell shortly after the decision on the afternoon of August 21 that the proposed Paradise Valley housing development planned for the southern edge of Joshua Tree National Park was voted down by the Riverside County Planning Commission, in a 4-1 vote.  Read more details in this Desert Sun article. Enjoy the photos below taken at the venue. MBCA Directors and supporters, especially Steve Bardwell, Sarah Kennington, and our stalwart science guru Pat Flanagan were vigilant in keeping track of the project, attending meetings, and making comments against the ill-conceived project.

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    Pat Flanagan presenting her science-based and impassioned plea to deny the Paradise Valley project.


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    Sarah Kennington holding DENY Paradise Valley sign.



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    The post-vote celebration of the denial of the Paradise Valley Project.

    BACKGROUND SCIENCE: 

    Here are Pat’s comments for MBCA on CO2 Emissions of the Paradise Valley Project.

    The following links include research documents elaborating on the science behind Pat’s comments:

    1.  The 2014 National Park Service Report on Carbon Sequestration in Parksincludes data on Joshua Tree National Park.

    2.  A Desert Report article “The Desert Under Our Feet”by the Morongo Basin’s own Robin Kobaly discusses how the amazing biology under our soil is critical to a healthy desert and absorption of carbon dioxide.

    3.  A very technical study called “Greater ecosystem carbon in the Mojave Desert after 10 years exposure to CO2”concludes that “arid ecosystems are significant, previously unrecognized, sinks for atmospheric CO2 that must be accounted for in efforts to constrain terrestrial and global C(arbon) cycles.”

    4.  A brief summary of arid lands carbon sequestration research from Washington State University, “Research: Arid areas absorb unexpected amounts of carbon”points out the importance of arid ecosystems.

     

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  • Roadblock for Paradise Valley Development

    The Riverside County Planning Department has thrown a roadblock in front of the huge "new town" of Paradise Valley proposed at the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park. The Desert Sun reports that Planning staff have said they cannot support the plan as submitted, in part due to questions not being satisfactorily answered by the project proponent, GLC Enterprises. The Planning Commission is due to vote on the project at its August 21 meeting. It may now either deny the project or direct staff to continue working to resolve issues. (Note in the second photo in the article that MBCA President and Immediate Past President Steve Bardwell and Sarah Kennington are sitting two rows behind the GLC representative Frank Bigelow at the May Planning Commission meeting. You can also read a lot more that MBCA has published on this issue by typing Paradise Valley into our Search button.)
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  • Another Opinion against the Paradise Valley Project

    Another strong case is made in a July 12 opinion letter in the Desert Sun against the proposed Paradise Valley housing development of more than 20,000 residents on the south side of Joshua Tree National Park.  The piece by Gail Wadsworth, executive director of the California Institute for Rural Studies, focuses on the unmet housing and support needs of rural communities near the proposed site and how the development would be detrimental rather than supportive for residents in those communities. 
     
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  • The End of the Altamira Project

    "THANK YOU - IT IS DONE AND WE HAVE WON!" 

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    Janet Johnston gives a donation check of $193 to MBCA President Steve Bardwell and Immediate Past President Sarah Kennington on behalf of the JT105 Alliance. It represents the final remainder of community donations toward litigation on the Altamira housing project. MBCA provided updates on the project to our thousand-plus subscribers beginning in early 2015. The fight against the Altamira housing project and the final result are described in this communication from Janet, community activist and MBCA member.

    After 10 years of fighting, the community of Joshua Tree has prevailed against the threat of the Altamira Gated Community. The Board of Supervisors voted on April 16, 2019, to rescind all approvals for the project. The developers, YV105 LLC, still own the property. If they decide to pursue another development, they would have to start the design, environmental studies, and approval process from scratch, likewise for anyone who might purchase the property.
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  • Eblast March 11, 2018

    Morongo Basin Residents Defend the DRECP

    Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

    It was a windy and chilly winter weeknight on March 1st… yet there was a fantastic turn out for the BLM-hosted DRECP (Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan) Scoping meeting and the subsequent conservation program in Joshua Tree. Every seat was occupied and a standing-room-only crowd filled the JT Community Center to capacity with as many as 200 attending. It was the strong response needed to demonstrate the Morongo Basin public’s support of conservation protections in the DRECP!

    Thanks to all who were there. For those of you who were unable to attend, MBCA sponsored video documentation of the conservation program. Click here:  “Morongo Basin Residents / Defend DRECP Desert Plan”

    The conservation panel was moderated by Chris Clarke, National Park Conservation Association. Panelists April Sall, California Desert Coalition, Kate Hoit, Vet Voice Foundation, & Frazier Haney, Mojave Desert Land Trust reviewed Department of Interior’s proposed amendment to the DRECP, and answered questions for making substantive comments. David Lamfrom, National Park Conservation Association, made eloquent closing remarks. Following the panel, a court recorder was provided for audience members’ oral responses to be submitted as comments to the DRECP Scoping.

    The Basin community wants more, not less, public land protected from development. How do we communicate this with substantive comments to the Federal Administration?

    There is a consensus that we don’t want to jeopardize the conservation lands achieved in the long 8-year DRECP process. Some voices at the meeting last week expressed the thought that accepting any changes to the Plan could unravel the whole bundle of agreements reached – like pulling at a thread in a knitted sweater. That was the just say “no” or “no change” position. Speakers noted that the process the DRECP established appears to be working. In the two years since the Record of Decision put the Plan into effect, there have been no lawsuits. Give it a chance to truly see how effective it is. This isn’t to say the DRECP is perfect, but let’s work within it before it’s scrapped for who knows what. It is not the conservation community advising the Department of Interior to reopen the DRECP, it is solar and wind energy developers and mining interests.

    Another perspective contends that it’s not a question of whether the Administration will open up the DRECP, but when. This represents the position: if we don’t take a seat at the table, we won’t get dinner. The conservation community should weigh in with specifics on issues we’ve discovered since the implementation of the DRECP to identify where the Plan needs improvement and why. For example, issues around the location of Development Focus Areas (DFAs), especially with the increased knowledge of what can go wrong, including ineffective mitigations.

    MBCA has been taking the lead, under the leadership of MBCA Director Pat Flanagan, at raising awareness of the unfortunate & irreversible impacts to our rural desert communities of inappropriately sited industrial scale Renewable Energy (RE). In particular, Pat has researched and shared when and where we can identify the effects of wind-borne dust after the delicate desert crust is damaged and native plants removed. Better soil analysis and knowledge to correlate the effects of siting RE along the Mojave Desert’s Sand Transport Paths (STPs) is needed.

    Death by Dust!

    Is this a social justice issue? Is this the Administration taking revenge on California? Is this a gross disregard for desert ecology and the welfare of desert citizens? I have to say, YES it is!

    Here are considerations as you prepare to Comment on the DRECP:

    If you are concerned about air quality - Say that!

    If you are concerned about effects on wildlife – the desert tortoise, and other species - Say that!

    If you are concerned about industrial scale RE overburdening our desert aquifers - Say that!

    If you believe that California is on track to meet the 2030 goal established for 50% RE and that sufficient land was set aside for RE development in the DRECP (as does the California Energy Commission) - Say that!

    If you have experienced the ill effects of a solar or wind “farm”  (Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have learned the hard way that their quality of life, and their property values are being destroyed from solar development sited next door to their homes) - Say that!

    If you believe that point of use solar – rooftops & shade structures – is the way to go, not scraping intact pristine desert - Say that!

    If you are benefiting from the Basin’s tourist economy and see the value of preserving the scenic values of our desert landscapes -

    Say that!

    If you believe it is critical to respond to climate change by keeping the natural desert landscape intact - Say that!

    Say what you feel, you know, you care about! Be “substantive” – tie your concern back to a specific understanding about the DRECP and desert conservation.

    If you haven’t already, make your voice heard in two critical ways


    1.
    BLM: Submit comments against the Administration’s plan to reduce conservation protections achieved in the DRECP by the March 22, 2018 deadline by writing to:

    BLM-California State Director
    electronically: BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov
    mail: 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825

    Include with comments:
    Your Name; Affiliation (if applicable); Phone: E-mail; Mailing Address

    2. San Bernardino County’s desert Supervisors:

    The County will be submitting Scoping comments to BLM. Your voice matters in their decision-making. Call or write to urge them:

    • To demand that there should be no additional land allocation for RE development on public lands in the DRECP.
    • To direct County Land Use Services (LUS) to immediately send RECE polices 4.10, 4.10.1 and 4.10.3 to the Planning Commission and adopt these measures as they stand to protect desert communities against impacts from RE projects.

    THIS TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 join MBCA Directors at the Joshua Tree Burke Government videoconference center to make your comments at the Supervisors meting. The open comment period begins at approximately 10:00AM – 11:00AM.

    At that time MBCA Directors will present a petition with more than 200 signatures.

    To call or write Supervisors:

    * James Ramos, Third District Supervisor
    (909) 387.4855 / E-mail: dyoung@cob.sbcounty.gov

    * Robert A. Lovingood, Chairman & First District Supervisor
    (909) 387.4830 / E-mail: melissa.mcclain@box.sbcounty.gov

    In closing:

    The Basin communities, perhaps more than any others, have spoken to defend the desert. We’ve stood up for it during the long 8-year deliberations to craft a DRECP with conservation protections & recreational opportunities, balanced with the demand for energy production, mining, and OHV use. It is unclear exactly how this new battle will play out. But it ain’t over till it’s over!

     

    Sincerely,
    Sarah Kennington, President
    Morongo Basin Conservation Association

     

    Your 2017 MBCA Board

    David Fick, Vice President                      Steve Bardwell, Treasurer   
    Marina West, Recording Secretary          Pat Flanagan, Director
    Meg Foley, Director                                Mike Lipsitz, Director
    Ruth Rieman, Director                            Claudia Sall, Director
    Seth Shteir, Director                               Laraine Turk, Director

    p.s. MBCA’s Desert Wise Living spring Landscape Tour, showcasing the desert lifestyle we are striving to protect through our comments on the DRECP, is in need of volunteer docents to assist during the tour on April 28 and 29. Please contact Cathy Zarakov, our volunteer coordinator at czarakov@gmail.com if you are interested in spending a half-day outdoors with our generous garden hosts and always enthusiastic visitors. In return for your time you will receive a complementary pass to attend the tour.

    p.p.s. Our thanks to Bob Stephenson / ProVideo for his professional support in making the March 1st video documentation possible.

     

    www.mbconservation.org

    MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
    that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
    and economic well-being.

     

    For more information, news, and links on the proposed amendment to DRECP:

    MBCA’s News Update Review of DRECP Comments Needed – Feb 4, 2018 (with pertinent links to BLM, Federal Register, news articles)

    Mojave Desert Blog Trump planning to Hand Over Desert Wildlands to Industry – February 1, 2018

    Desert Sun In stunning reversal, Trump could open California desert to more solar and wind farms, by Sammy Roth – March 2, 1018

    (https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2018/02/01/trump-could-open-california-desert-more-solar-and-wind-farms-mining-off-roading/1087021001/)

    Desert Sun Joshua Tree cries foul as Trump targets California desert for energy projects, by Sammy Roth – March 5, 2018

    (https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2018/02/01/trump-could-open-california-desert-more-solar-and-wind-farms-mining-off-roading/1087021001/

     

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  • County Report on Section 6/DVCA

    At the Monday, January 8 meeting of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council, County District Services Coordinator Frank Haggard presented a slide show demonstrating the County's plans for the Desert View Conservation Area, known by many residents as Section 6.  This day-use-only area has been overwhelmed with National Park visitors illegally using it as an overflow campground, causing disruption to nearby residents and damage to the property.  The plans include hiking trails, a shade shelter, signage, and parking.  Additional information can be found in this KCDZ news story and in these notes made by a local resident. Residents with questions, comments, or an interest in volunteering to help with this project should call 760.366.8415.

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  • Eblast October 7, 2017

    October 11 Update:  Click to view and print these condensed "shorthand" versions of the Joshua Tree Draft Community Plan and the Lucerne Valley Draft Community Plan created by Pat Flanagan.  
     
    Countywide Plan Meeting / Open House – Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017
    Update: SB 249 & SB 159
     
    Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
     
    Land use issues are an ongoing concern in the Morongo Basin. Over the years residents have responded to developments that threatened our rural quality of life and were in conflict with an established Community Plan.
     
    MBCA encourages you to attend the San Bernardino County community outreach meeting in Joshua Tree this Wednesday, October 11, to express concerns for creating Community Plans that ensure local control over land use decisions. The meeting will provide updates on the progress of the Countywide General Plan and to gather community feedback of the planning process – including Draft Community Plans.
     
    WHEN: October 11, 2017, 5 - 8 PM
    WHERE: Joshua Tree Community Center, 6171 Sunburst Street
     
    Members of our rural residential communities who have explored the recently released Draft Community Plans have not been kind in their response. The Plans show a lack of familiarity with the communities and residents question whether county planners and consultants were ‘listening’ during the three Listening Sessions. The drafts are in reality action or work plans – for local implementation by each community. In the case of Joshua Tree, the plan has no relationship to the existing 2007 Community Plan.
     
    Draft Community Plans have been generated for following communities:
    Pioneertown Communities - foundation plan
     
    MBCA contends that by definition the Draft plans are not Community Plans because they lack the essential goals and policies to guide land use decisions. When a Community Plan is adopted into the County’s General Plan, its goals and policies carry the force of law. However, the draft plans under consideration disenfranchise local communities from the legal process. At the Wednesday session, we suggest attendees to recommend the County more accurately name these draft documents Suggested Action Plans (SAP).
     
    Local control by Joshua Tree residents (or other unincorporated communities) to maintain rural character can only be maintained if the County General Plan adopts the goals and policies that were adopted in the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan. Goals and policy provide the force of law that supported Joshua Tree residents legal petitions against the Altamira Gated Housing Project, the Joshua Tree Airport Solar, and Dollar General. At Wednesday’s Open House, we want County planners to clearly understand that we expect the Goals and Policies in the Joshua Tree 2007 Community Plan be adopted into the new JT Community Plan.
     
    Some good news is anticipated at the meeting: a new Land Use map for Joshua Tree with welcomed zoning changes. This is thanks to the efforts of community activists who have worked diligently to provide valuable input to San Bernardino County Land Use Services staff. 
     
    We have a great opportunity on Wednesday to support the work of those individuals in the Basin who volunteered their time and labored tirelessly to gain knowledge of how our communities can work with the County to gain greater control over land use decisions. It is critical that Basin communities retain power to challenge planning decisions under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) when necessary! This chart will help you understand how CEQA empowers Community Plans.
     
    We encourage residents in the Pioneertown Communities, Homestead Valley Communities, Morongo Valley, Phelan/Pinon Hills and Lucerne Valley to understand the Joshua Tree Community Plan as they work to create their own Community Plans. The Basin’s community specific plans impact one another and need to be considered as a whole. United we stand, divided we fall! See you Wednesday!
     
    We hope to see a good turnout at Wednesday’s meeting. But, if you cannot attend – visit this website for the information that will be presented at the Open House, including draft community plans, web-based maps, and digital copies of materials presented at the meeting. You may submit comments at the site or to: CountywidePlan@lus.sbcounty.gov
     
     
    Update: SB 249 & SB159
    Governor Brown signed these California OHV recreation legislation bills. While the legislation didn’t accomplish all the conservation community sought for the protection of natural resources from illegal riding and environmental degradation, it will improve OHMVR (off-road motor vehicle registration) funding for enforcement and landscape restoration. Thanks for your calls to representatives.
     
    Community Events
    And finally, on a lighter note, please visit MBCA’s Calendar page to view a number of October and November events that we think may be of interest to readers of this Eblast.  And especially, note that our Fall Desert-Wise Living program focused on Zero Net Energy living will be on Saturday, November 4.
     
    Sincerely,
    Sarah Kennington, MBCA President
     
    Your 2017 MBCA Board 
    David Fick, Vice President                          Steve Bardwell, Treasurer  
    Marina West, Recording Secretary            Pat Flanagan, Director        
    Meg Foley, Director                                      Ruth Rieman, Director
    Claudia Sall, Director for Events                Seth Shteir, Director
    Laraine Turk, Director
     
    MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
    that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth 
    and economic well-being.
     
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  • Morongo Basin Unincorporated Community Plans Updated

    The County of San Bernardino has just published the latest versions of updated Community Plans for a number of communities in the Morongo Basin, based on input from last year's "Community Workshops."  The links provided below connect you to the overview page on the County's website, which explains the process and the status, and includes a link to the latest plan. 
     
    Detailed Plans:  Joshua Tree, Lucerne Valley
    Foundation Plans:  Pioneertown Communities
     
     
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  • MBCA Comments on Lucerne/Ord Mountain Solar Proposal

    In another extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive document, MBCA Director Pat Flanagan on June 30 sent MBCA's official comment letter on the proposed Ord Mountain Solar and Energy Storage Project in Lucerne Valley to San Bernardino County Land Use Services.  In addition, 

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  • Altamira Project On Hold

    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.

    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.”

    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." 

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