Will high density housing on 264 acres of Fanita Ranch save Santee?

By Mike Ranson

Home Fed’s Fanita Ranch project will be coming before the Santee City Council at the end of August.  If you are a Santee resident, you already know many of the details of the Home Fed Fanita Ranch plan, so I won’t spend time writing about that plan here.

Instead, in an effort to understand all options, I have been researching the alternative plans proposed for the Fanita Ranch property.

Environmental groups, including the political action committee Preserve Wild Santee, have proposed alternative plans for the development. These PWS PAC alternatives can be found in a letter to the city of Santee dated December 10, 2018. The first and most well-known alternative plan is the 100% Conservation Alternative. Environmental groups have had many decades to prove that this is a viable option and they have come up short each time. The second alternative plan is the Climate Action Alternative. Great goal, if it is possible. I support making any development of Fanita Ranch as sustainable as possible.

The third and most viable alternative plan offered by PWS PAC is known as the Limited Development Alternative. I believe this is the most realistic compromise if the Home Fed plan for Fanita Ranch is not developed. 

The letter from PWS PAC states, “Alternatives that limit development to under 20% and under 10% of the Fanita Ranch site and an alternative consistent with the Santee General Plan should be considered. There should be a comprehensive discussion about how much of the site presents the highest fire risk and how a 10% development alternative might align with avoiding the areas of the site most vulnerable to firestorms.” The Fanita Ranch site is 2,638 acres of land and 10% of the site would be 263.8 acres. I’ll call it 264 acres.

Environmental groups advocate for this alternative to be “consistent with the Santee General Plan.” What is consistent with the Santee General Plan? I emailed the city of Santee Development Services to find out. The response from the city was, “Please see the Fanita Ranch Guiding Principles in the Land Use Element. See also Appendix C of the Housing Element, which assumed 1,395 units for the housing sites inventory.” The city of Santee is saying that the number of units consistent with the Santee General Plan is 1,395.

Environmental groups are suggesting that “the most southeast portion of the site should be the first place considered for the LDA.” Where is this? If you look at a map of Fanita Ranch you will see that the southeast portion could be near the terminus of either Cuyamaca Street or Magnolia Avenue. The location mentioned is not real specific so clarity from PWS PAC would be welcome.

Using all of this information, I am trying to picture what this Limited Development Alternative would look like: 1,395 housing units on 10% of Fanita Ranch property in the most southeast portion of the site. For context, the Weston development in Santee is made up of 415 housing units on 203 acres of land.  Another good visual for Santee residents is the Parc One Luxury Apartments. That development is made up of 172 apartments on 6.8 acres.

Are you visualizing what this might look like? To me, it looks like more than three times the housing units in Weston on only 264 acres of land. Is this even possible? Not likely. What is more realistic and consistent with both the Limited Development Alternative and the 1,395 units assumed by the Housing Element is a high-density apartment style development like the Parc One—but at over eight times larger!

I am concerned that Santee residents are being led down a road that promises to stop Fanita Ranch and save Santee only to find out that the road leads to a disastrous Limited Development Alternative. An alternative that causes the very traffic nightmare we all want to avoid. Can you image 1,395 units jammed into the most southeast portion of the Fanita Ranch site? How would those residents exit the site in an emergency? How many additional vehicle trips would be generated on the long stretch of Mast Blvd to West SR 52?

As I mentioned at the beginning of my letter, the Home Fed Fanita Ranch project will come before the Santee City Council at the end of the month. I support the approval of the Home Fed project. I do not support cramming 1,395 high density housing units onto 10% of the Fanita Ranch land.

If the Home Fed development for Fanita Ranch is approved by our city council, there will likely be a referendum initiative launched that promises to stop Fanita Ranch and save Santee. Please remember the Limited Development plan before signing a petition to save Santee. Please consider that the goal may be to stop Fanita Ranch but the end result is most likely a 10% footprint with 1,395 housing units.

In November, Santee voters will be asked to vote on the Santee General Plan Initiative that seeks to save Santee by stopping Fanita Ranch. Before voting on that initiative, please research for yourself the Limited Development Alternative plan proposed by the same group that wrote the General Plan Initiative.

Many Santee residents want to preserve Fanita Ranch as 100% open space.

I understand that desire. However, I personally do not believe it is a realistic option in 2020 and during a state-wide housing crisis. I also believe that an alternative plan the jams 1,395 high density housing units on just 264 acres is a terrible alternative for the Fanita Ranch site and certainly no way to save Santee. I have let the Santee City Council and Mayor know that I support the Home Fed plan for Fanita Ranch and I hope you will too.

Mike Ranson is a Santee resident.