Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy
Borrego Unanimous in Opposition to Rudyville
On Thursday, April 7th, approximately 163 persons attended the meeting of the Community Sponsor Group held at the Borrego Springs High School. Staff from the San Diego County Department of Planning & Development Services attended this Public Hearing to receive public testimony regarding the “Rudyville” (aka Borrego County Club Estates, DS-24) Property Specific Request (PSR) for a General Plan Amendment (GPA) to increase the housing density of Rudyville from one house per 10 acres to one house per one acre.
Though most Sponsor Group meetings scheduled for weekday afternoons attract only a handful of attendees, there was standing room only in the High School’s Community Room on April 7th, with an overflow of attendees sitting on the floor and outside on the lawn. A show of hands at the beginning of the meeting revealed the attendees were unanimous in their opposition to Rudyville. No attendee spoke in support of Rudyville; and those attendees who did speak expressed passionate reasons for opposing an increase in housing density for Rudyville.
Staff members from the County’s Department of Planning and Development Services—Kevin Johnston, Land Use/Environmental Planner, and Noah Alvey, Planning Manager—were present at the meeting to brief the Sponsor Group and public about the Property Specific Request process, to hear comments from the public, and to answer questions. They reminded the crowd that in July 2012 the County Board of Supervisors directed County staff to analyze 43 Property Specific Requests (PSR’s) spread throughout San Diego County. Two of these PSR’s are located in Borrego Springs: one is Rudyville, DS-24; the other is DS-8, which is a large parcel between Borrego Springs Road and Di Giorgio Road, just west of the Roadrunner Club. Rudyville was by far the primary focus of concern and opposition at the April 7th meeting.
Several community organizations opposed to Rudyville advocated the preservation of the entire ocotillo forest, relict sand dune, and seasonal desert stream located on the Rudyville site.
Betsy Knaak, representing the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA), noted the Rudyville parcel encompasses perhaps the oldest, most dense, and publicly accessible stand of ocotillos in the entire desert Southwest.
The Anza Borrego Foundation (ABF) and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park asserted that the Rudyville site provides an important buffer zone and wildlife habitat associated with the nearby state park.
The Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce emphasized the fact that there are already thousands of existing lots in Borrego Springs and that any future residential development should occur on disturbed, fallowed agricultural grounds, not pristine desert habitat.
Lori Paul, speaking on behalf of the Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy, revealed that a 2008 investigation of County records by Tubb Canyon residents discovered a massive flood control project concealed within Rudyville planning documents. At least 60% of the Rudyville site is located in a floodplain, necessitating the construction of a major concrete diversion dam, a debris basin, and flood control channels on neighbors' properties that would be taken by eminent domain. Construction of such a dam and flood channels would deprive adjacent properties, including State Park lands, of naturally occurring seasonal water flows and would increase the flow and alter the direction of flash floods across Borrego Springs Road.
Local residents would be forced to pay for the extensive flood diversion structures through a special “Geologic Hazard Assessment District” fee added to their property tax bills. It was noted that Rudy Monica failed to mention this dam and water diversion channel system during any of his original versions of the subdivision presented at past Sponsor Group meetings.
Several attendees noted Borrego Springs has had a surplus of vacant building sites and houses for sale over many decades, including in the vicinity of Rudyville. Additional graded lots would adversely impact the value of existing private properties by creating an even larger surplus of building sites in a small, economically challenged community.
Members of the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group do not support the increase in zoning density for Rudyville; however, because two of the five members of the Sponsor Group recused themselves from a vote due to potential conflicts of interest, the Sponsor Group lacked a quorum and could not offer a formal decision to the San Diego County Planners. Members who recused themselves were: Tom Beltran, Sponsor Group Chairperson, who owns a home adjacent to the proposed Rudyville site; and Rebecca Falk, a realtor who stated she is currently involved in a property transaction associated with Rudy Monica, the lead promoter of Rudyville.
County planners will incorporate testimony from this Public Hearing as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) they were instructed to create by the County Board of Supervisors in July 2012. Planners expect this EIR will be completed at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. Once completed, the EIR will represent “new information” and as such will be open…again…to Public Comment and review by the Community Sponsor Group.
Eventually the completed EIR will be presented to the San Diego County Planning Commission where there will be another Public Hearing, probably at the end of 2017. The Planning Commission will make a final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors who will have a final vote on the matter at the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018. Planners urged the community to send in their comments and to keep involved during each phase of this lengthy process.
J. David Garmon, MD