Well Wednesday night was one was heck of a viewing party if you were tuned into the City Council meeting. At just minutes shy of reaching the six-hour mark, Council voted 4-1 to adopt the Fanita Ranch Specific Plan for our city. HomeFed, the developer and owner of the largest land holding in Santee (over 2,600 acres), gave an extensive plan overview with VP of Community Development Jeff O’Connor noting how when he started working on this project, his daughter was just ten years old. Now with his daughter in her junior year of college, it was clear that this was a true labor of love. Santee’s Development Services Director, Melanie Kush, gave an also impressive report with staff’s recommendation to move forward with this project. I found the history of the land quite interesting, especially the time in the 1950s when the Carlton Company purchased about 4,300 acres of the original 9,500 “Fanita Rancho” land and developed the southern portion with tract homes, leaving the remaining 2,600+ to be developed at a later date. For the Santee history books, that date can be today. With the vote coming in around 12:19am, many of us waited till the bitter end with bated breath to hear the fate of this controversial project.
I know many of you have emotions tied to this project, regardless of the fact that it has been slated for development for well over six decades and the entirety of the City’s incorporation. I get it. I’ve grown up here and love the charm of Santee with its small town vibes and quiet demeanor. You don’t have to agree with me (and many of you won’t), but I don’t think we will get lost in who we are as a community once Fanita Ranch is a part of us. In fact, I’m looking forward to what we will look like once it’s complete. With four phases planned with a 10-15 year build-out, we still have quite some time to let our imaginations run wild… but let me help you. Among this 2,600+ acres, imagine: 30 acres dedicated to a Community Farm, 256 acres dedicated to Open Space and 1,650 acres dedicated as a Habitat Preserve. I’ll let you do that math, but for those who trust mine, that’s over 73% of the land NOT being used EVER for more housing.
Listening in on the entire presentation, having attended multiple workshops hosted by HomeFed and having this already passed among voters, I have only hopeful eyes for what I see in the future. Some of which is in plain view because it’s being put into the agreements with the city. For example:
• $2.6M to be used within the city for affordable housing
• Another $2.6M for future CIP projects
• No Certificates of Occupancy issued until SR-52 improvements are substantially complete
• A new Fire Station stating that must be completed before issuance of the first Certificate of Occupancy (not including model homes) - This also includes costs for staffing and equipment!!
These are some huge wins for Santee and I was inspired by one of Councilwoman Koval’s statement towards the end of the meeting when she said, “No one likes the high cost of living, taxes, inflated prices, traffic, change, but these are all things we must mitigate as a community. If we don’t come together and start making decisions on what kind of development WE build in Santee, the state will decide for us. They have been working for some time on seizing our local control with new laws routing through the Assembly and Senate. This is of grave concern to me. I’d rather choose our neighborhood developments and leverage addressing community needs as part of the process.” This rang so true for me… if WE have an opportunity to make of our town what it can be, then let us do so. Thank you to our entire City Council for the time and dedication they put into reading, researching and asking for more to make sure we had the best plan moving forward.