Big update from local activists at the JT105 Alliance….
The JT105 Alliance filed a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit against the County and the developers of Altamira on October 28, 2016. Since then, 89 people have donated $8,683, to pay for the legal expenses via check or on https://www.gofundme.com/stop-altamira. THANK YOU!!!! We have paid the lawyer and the court fees for the filing of the well-written petition, and hopefully have enough to pay for their time, since. We are waiting on the second invoice, and will send out word if we need more funds.
The CEQA lawsuit process requires a mandatory settlement discussion to see if the case can avoid trial. The JT105 Alliance offered the developers two options to possibly avoid trial. The best result of a trial would be that the judge would demand that they do a full Environmental Impact Report. That takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. For us opposing the project, we would have had to continue arguing through this long EIR process, all with the hope that the end result would be that an alternate design be required. SO, with that in mind we sent these two options.
1) Donate the land to the Mojave Desert Land Trust. THE MDLT would have to decide whether to accept the donation. We can’t speak for MDLT, but there is a good chance that they would not want to hold that parcel in perpetuity. If they did accept it, they may hold it temporarily, and try to do something like the following option with the land.
2) Redesign the tract map so that the western third/half, which is crossed by streambeds/flood plain, would remain natural as a conservation easement, or possibly County Floodway. The eastern section would be divided into 1 to 2.5 acre lots. No mass grading. Grading would only occur, as needed, for the few roads, driveways, and approximately 40 house pads. No wall or gate. They would not need the large, ugly, drainage retention basin right along Alta Loma. The waste treatment plant could be reduced in size as well, or possibly it could work out that they don’t need one. That is exactly the thing that the developers need time to really look into. The roads, that we suggested would encourage traffic away from the four-way stop at Alta Loma/Sunny Vista.
The developers were much more interested in looking into these options than we expected. We had a conference call with five of the core JT105 Alliance leaders, our lawyer, their lawyer, and the County lawyer, in January. We could not discuss any specifics until the agreement was signed by the judge. After some discussion, 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. So, we can still sue at the end of the 6 months, or after 4 months, with written notice.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, an eagle-eyed community member notified us that the developers had listed the project for sale, with the tract map approval as a key marketing point! The developers did not tell us this. They listed it in December, and we had our conference settlement call in January. http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/20103802/Alta-Loma-Drive-Sunny-Vista-Road-Joshua-Tree-CA/ This breach of trust does not really impact the bottom line. IF they were to sell the land, the lawsuit, and the wrath of hundreds, would be inherited by the new owner if they tried to pursue the tract map as it is. The realtor has been informed. Any potential buyer should be savvy enough to google “Altamira Joshua Tree” (or similar) and up comes tons of information, showing ten years of resistance.
Another important issue that we need to stay on top of is the update to our Joshua Tree Community Plan. A few of us went to the November Planning Commission workshop about the updates. The consultants ran through over a dozen plan updates, showing zoning map changes. When they got to Joshua Tree, Commissioner Weldy pointed out that the area where Altamira is proposed was still at a higher density. In the discussion with Planning Staff that followed, it dawned on the Commissioners that we were not getting the opportunity to review these map changes. So, they directed the Planning Staff to bring these map changes back to the communities for review. When that does happen, we need to downzone that area as it should have been back in 2007 to align with the Joshua Tree Community Plan (which is one of the main points of the lawsuit). They had suggested some other zoning changes to JT, without any real substance behind the decisions, so all of it needs to be discussed.
See http://www.mbconservation.org/alta_mira_housing_project for more information. Some new documents may not be available for a few days.