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Ask Law Educator, Esq. Your Own Question
Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: CA Real Estate
Satisfied Customers: 118293
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I asked a question several months ago related to this issue.

Customer Question

I asked a question several months ago related to this issue. I have more specific question which is stated at the end of the background info below:I own a home in Joshua Tree CA, and my friends are living in it. Joshua Tree is known as an "artists" community, close to nature, and of course, Joshua Tree national Park- somewhat of an escape from civilization. Sparsely populated and seems to have slow growth. Much different than neighboring Yucca Valley, which is more like suburban southern CA with a WalMart, denser housing tracts- closer together.A developer has bought a 105 acre parcel in a nice part of town, and is proposing to the planning commission of San Bernardino County to build a dense tract with 250 homes surrounded by a 6 foot wall. The wall would surround a school which is now completely out in the open, and would mar the huge open desert view of many residents.. The projected selling price of the homes is about double what homes are selling for there. Home values near the project would drop significantly. They made preliminary efforts in 2009 and 2014 to move the project forward, but unanimous resistance from the residents and all community organizations bogged them down.. The project is trying to move forward again out of the blue. Notices from County were sent to a portion of Joshua Tree residents announcing a public hearing to take place about two weeks after the mailing of the notices- so I just found out about it- almost threw the notice away by accident. I work full time, and it will take me a while to be able to come up with reasonable, effective, and valid opinions or objections to the project. The promoters are multi-million dollar LLC's and professional promoters and designers who've been working on-and-off on the project for 7 years. The size and style of this project is contrary to tradition in Joshua Tree. The project would use the appeal and unique characteristic of Joshua Tree to sell the homes- while in the process contributing significantly to the deterioration of those very qualities.The Planning Dept approved the project 4 to 1. We appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Some of our community members did outstanding research finding that the project needs to conform to a significant degree to our Community Plan. The project is almost completely out of line with the Community plan- and the Community plan has been adopted by the County in 2007 as part of the General Plan. Our many quality arguments were well presented in writing prior to the BOS Hearing- as well as in many excellent 3-minute "public comments" at the hearing. These included many citations of code, OPR guidelines, CA Supreme Ct decisions. Yet the BOS voted against appeal 3 to 2.We are now bringing a CEQA style lawsuit. Naturally, we will have standard CEQA classic environmental complaints. BUT: my question is:Can complaints regarding lack of compliance with Community Plan be brought as part of a CEQA suit? We feel that the root cause of our problem with County is that they pay no attention to the Community Plan. It is pretty clear to any reasonable person that the project does not comply- it pretty much punches the Community in the face. There may be some animus between County and Community which could possibly explain this lack of respect. Here are some of the ways the project does not comply with the Community Plan:
1) lots too dense. 11,500 sq ft (1/4 acre) average lot size. Way lower than average lot density in area. CP looks to maintain rural feel. Lots should be no less than 18,000. Many lots in area are 22,000 sq ft (1/2 acre)- ranging up to 2.5 acres.
2) entire 105 acres would be graded. CP calls for grading of pad and driveway only
3) all vegetation would be removed and (supposedly) relocated
4) is surrounded entirely by a 6 foot wall with only one entrance- totally out of character with all other homes in area.
5) because of the walls, wildlife cannot pass thru
6) completely out of character with Joshua Tree and harmful to JT's status as "gateway to JT National Park"- visitors to park would be driving by this Orange County style dense, insensitive housing project. Joshua Tree is known throughout the world for having a more open rural character which the project knowingly violates.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: CA Real Estate
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
In the Initial Study for the project by the Planning Dept which I think is part of CEQA process, the part that seemed relevant to me was this:X. Land Use and Planning- would the project:b) Conflict with any applicable land use plan, policy, or regulation of an agency with jurisdiction over the project (including, but not limited to the general plan, specific plan, local coastal program, or zoning ordinance) adopted for the purpose of avoiding or mitigating an environmental effect?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
Yes, failure to follow or deviation from the community plan can be part of your suit. It is another cause of action that can be added to your environmental impact causes of action. You would be able to raise each way that the development deviates from the community plan and also if there are violations of any of the zoning codes as well, which the developers would have to file a waiver for with the zoning department to show that this plan is not even close to conforming to community or environmental standards.
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