A group of residents, upset about notices they received from the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) regarding zoning changes that would increase density in their neighborhood, received full support from the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) on June 4.
DPLU has been reviewing zoning for the General Plan Update. RCPG Chair Chris Anderson said Ramona, one of 26 unincorporated areas in the plan, has its own guidelines and community plan. The Ramona plan is scheduled to be presented at the San Diego County Planning Commission meeting July 9.
The residents at the RCPG meeting represented a section of Ramona’s village core south of Main Street and between Pala and Rotanzi streets.
Linda Berman, who lives on Raymond Avenue, said she received notice from the county a couple of weeks ago stating intentions to rezone the area from Raymond Avenue and the south side of Kelly Avenue and from Hunter Street to Ramona Street from 3Res to VR-15 (village residential). This would increase density from two units per acre to 15 units per acre.
“Shame on whoever suggested this area,” said Berman. “We cannot incorporate higher density dwellings anywhere in this area due to the flooding problems we have every winter.”
She asked the planning group to support them on no rezoning for their area.
Mike Eckhart, a 17-year Kelly Avenue resident, said each year as more commercial buildings have been constructed in the area, the flooding has become worse and their yards have literally been underwater. He said he has spent money putting pipes in his yard in an effort to drain the water.
“As far as building anything else, the neighborhood needs to be upgraded,” he said.
Many of the residents submitted photos of their flooded yards to the planning group.
Anderson said planning group members have been working on the General Plan Update since 1999 and Ramona is supposed to have a density cap of 7.3 units per acre. Anderson said she and others went to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and said that, unlike a lot of other undeveloped areas in the backcountry, “we did take our fair share of growth back in the ‘80s with all these apartments in our core and so we want to make sure we don’t have to have that high of a density in our core.” Jacob supported this, Anderson said, and documented her support in a letter.
Since 1999, however, county employees at DPLU have changed. Anderson said they brought it to the attention of Devon Muto and Eric Lardy from DPLU two weeks ago. Muto and Lardy have been working with the planning group on the zoning and plans for Ramona.
Anderson said she received a letter from Lardy, referring to page 31 in the Ramona Community Plan, which states, “Limit residential development in the Ramona Town Center to 7.3 dwelling units per acre, unless it is developed pursuant to the Ramona Village Plan or a deed restricted senior or affordable housing project.”
“The California Housing Element has to be met,” explained Anderson.
Over the past 11 years, Anderson said, the planning group has made motions in opposition to the proposed General Plan. With the Ramona area in a concentric circle, Anderson said, the county has proposed that lots continually become larger as one moves away from the town center. In the outlying areas, the county has 160-acre minimum lot sizes per one dwelling because it’s all resources-based, Anderson said. Moving toward the town center, the minimum acreage for lot sizes would drop down to 80, 40, 20, 10, four, two, one and then to the city lot sizes in the core where the density jumps. Anderson noted that county staff is trying to push this through even though the people have voted against it.
Anderson said they are fighting for community character. “Otherwise we are an El Cajon. Otherwise we are a city.
“I’m glad you guys woke up,” she told the residents, adding that the planning group needs them to attend the July 9 planning commission meeting “and anybody else you know that can say, ‘Stop it.’ Please get more people so you can be heard and we can keep our town,” said Anderson.
One by one, planning group members voiced their support to the residents. RCPG Secretary Kristi Mansolf said the county has dragged out the General Plan Update but just in the past couple of months has come to the planning group with zoning.
Anderson said DPLU sent out “a ton” of letters and she knows a couple of residents have hired attorneys to go to the commission meeting.
RCPG member Jim Piva suggested the residents write letters with their concerns to Jacob with a copy going to Eric Lardy at DPLU. The planning group unanimously passed three motions regarding the General Plan Update and zoning.
One motion asks the DPLU to reconsider the VR-15 zoning from Ramona Street to Main Street, noting that flooding has been exacerbated in that area, which is in a floodplain. The motion also requests that the area from Pala Street to Rotanzi Street be evaluated and retain its current density.
Another motion states that, due to the pending impacts of the zoning changes as proposed, the RCPG requests an additional 45 days for public review for the zoning changes.
The third motion expresses the planning group’s displeasure with some of the county’s decisions: “We are opposed to the current General Plan Update plan based on the extreme density upzones and downzones and last minute zoning overlay, and for the following reasons: 1) the RMWD (Ramona Municipal Water District) says we don’t have the ability to serve even current density; 2) economic impacts are not considered in the EIR (Environmental Impact Report); 3) the extreme open space easement with restriction of use. Ramona would prefer Ag open space where the land can still be used. We feel this plan will destroy our community character and that this is a false plan for growth.”