I had not attended the February 1, 2016 meeting of the Escondido City Council, where the Council Majority (Councilwoman Olga Diaz voting no) approved an average 5.5% increase in both water and sewage rates for customers of the City of Escondido water and sewage utility department—that is a 5.5% increase for each of the next five years. So, I watched the video of that portion of the meeting.
Director of Utilities, Christopher McKinney explained that one of the “most significant drivers” of the rate increases were proposed capital improvement programs such as the project to deliver recycled water to Escondido farmers including the Membrane Filtration/Reverse Osmosis plant recently approved on the city’s site at the corner of Washington and Ash. (I wrote about that meeting in my last blog: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/15361469/posts/1295844079–and, no surprises there, it is now in litigation http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-lawsuit-escondido-20170210-story.html .)
McKinney summarized the various complaints the city had received from residents objecting to the rate increases. However, he did not mention the copy of a letter he had received from the San Pasqual Valley Preservation Alliance (the folks fighting the Safari Highlands Ranch project.) (I have written before about this project: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/08/29/201/ .) Well, in fairness to McKinney, that letter did not object to the rate hike so much as the fact that some of that recycled water would be going to the proposed Safari Highlands Ranch project, as specified in the October, 2016 update to the Safari Highlands Specific Plan:
The City of Escondido will secure easements for the extension of the recycled water pipe to the Project boundary, in Rockwood Road. This extension will allow the Project to use recycled water for its non-potable water needs. This system will also make recycled water available to facilities along the pipeline route that do not currently have access to it. This system is expected to provide 100 percent of the Project’s non-potable water needs. https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/PDFs/Planning/SafariRanch/RevisedSpecificPlanNovember2016.pdf
This this letter from Scott R. Graves of the San Pasqual Valley Preservation Alliance was sent to Bryan Cash, Deputy Asst. Secretary for Bonds and Grants of the California Natural Resources Agency. Cash sent a copy of the letter to McKinney. The letter points out that the city had received some $2 million in grant money to help them build the “Easterly Expansion Recycled Water Line for Agricultural Use.” Graves states that the use of the line for a luxury housing development was an “inappropriate use” of grant funds from the Integrated Regional Water Management funds authorized by Prop 84, especially since some of the city’s grants funds were applied for as a Disadvantage Community (DAC status). So, the citizens of Escondido are once again expected to subsidize the development of luxury homes, a development that is the very poster child of ugly urban sprawl, and leapfrog development—Rancho Guejito borders on the development. A development that obliterates precious habitat for San Diego’s endangered species. A development that certainly will not add to the county’s affordable housing. See https://www.spvpa.org/safari-highlands-ranch/ for more info.
When the council majority first allowed this project to go forward, they argued that not to do so would violate property owners’ rights. There should come a time when the rights of future generations to enjoy the native wildlife of the county trumps the rights of property owners. That time is now.