Stop Altamira !

$8,808 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 92 people in 23 months
The Altamira gated development, proposed in the heart of the Joshua Tree community of Friendly Hills, surrounding the elementary school, will blade 105 acres of native Joshua tree woodland, shoehorn 248 speculative (and relatively expensive) homes onto 10,000 sq.ft. lots, and then encircle and enclose its maze of cul-de-sacs with wall and fence.  This design is completely out of character with the area.  The existing rural neighborhood is currently built on 18,000 to 2.5 acre lots, all built as needed by locals, on open, natural desert streets, through which all neighbors and animals are welcome to travel.

The San Bernardino County Planning Staff said this project would have no potential impact on the environment, and pushed through a Mitigated Negative Declaration, rather than requiring an Environmental Impact Report which would have revealed the obvious issues, and would have required an alternate design. The County did not review the project for consistency with either the County General Plan, or the Joshua Tree Community Plan, which is a required "finding" by both State and County Law. 

The Planning  Commission passed the project (4 to 1) in April, the JT 105 Alliance (an association of concerned community members) appealed,  and then after a very questionable hearing, the Board of Supervisors passed the project 3 to 2, on September 27, 2016.  The JT 105 Alliance filed a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit, and we now need our extended community, and desert-loving guests to help pay for the lawyer, filing fees, and costs associated with this action.  The core JT 105 Alliance members have spent, and will spend, hundreds of hours of volunteer time, as they see the importance of stopping this project for future of our Morongo Basin, and for the benefit of all our National Park Visitors.

Janet Johnston and Gayle Austin have volunteered to manage the fundraising for the JT 105 Alliance.  We are both  residents of, and active in, the community of Joshua Tree.  Gayle is an amazing tattoo artist, and along with her husband, are building a business in downtown Joshua Tree.  They have both worked at the local schools, as well.  Janet came to Joshua Tree, back in 1998, to build the Harrison House, and was the architect for Sacred Sands B&B (her husband helped build it), as well as private houses, locally. She and her husband decided to raise their family here, and have volunteered for years as soccer coaches in Joshua Tree, and extensively at the local school.  Janet and Gayle are well-known in various circles of the community, and can provide references (again with some notice) as to our committment and character. 

You can research the history of the community's battle with the Altamira development, and keep up on updates,  on the local  HiDesert Star (newspaper) and KCDZfm (radio) websites.

The funds collected are going to be used to pay the court fees, the JT 105 Alliance's lawyer's fees, and any direct costs (copies, mailing expense, and possibly renting a room for a meeting) required for the case. 

We have opened a specific bank account for this action of trying to stop this development.   We will route all money collected, and all money spent to pay lawyer (etc.) through this bank account, so all is transparent. All transactions are available for review by anyone who has donated, with a few days notice.  Janet Johnston is the responsible party that will withdraw the funds from GoFundme, then deposit into the bank account that Gayle Austin and Janet jointly opened for the purpose of paying the lawyer, and costs associated with JT105 Alliance's battle to stop this development, that is so out of character with our community.

We will post updates  to inform all donors of the continuing status of the case, as it proceeds. Once we know the case is finished (whether this trial court, or potential appeal), and it will take time, we will contact folks to determine together what to do with any remaining funds.  Options may include either returning whatever percentage (if any) is left of their donation to them, or donate to a local charity.
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WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO DO NOW:
Reminder: THIS FRIDAY, Dec 15th, IS THE DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS per the Draft Community Plans.
If you haven’t already, here are two ways to send your comments:
Follow links http://countywideplan.com/dec-15th-deadline-for-comments-on-draft-community-plans/
or email:
CountywidePlan@lus.sbcounty.gov (include your signature, printed, name, street address)
For a lot of good information, please see: www.mbconservation.org/eblasts Dec 2, 2017 eblast.
Main Point: The draft plans cannot be titled “Community Plan”. They are NOT enforceable land use documents, and have no legal value in court. We call them “Suggested Action Plans,” which more describes what they are. The format and content of our (still-active) 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan (along with all the other Community Plans for many of the unincorporated communities of the county) will be abandoned. The County says that these crucial goals, policies, and objectives, that define how our unique Joshua Tree Community wants its land to be used or conserved, will be incorporated into what they are going to call a Policy Plan (instead of General Plan). That is not available for review, yet. So, in the meantime, we do not accept these plans as titled.
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Part 2 of update:
If the developers sell the property, and if the buyers were to pursue the same tract map, then we would act on the lawsuit and go to court. If the developers decide to proceed with the tract map, themselves, and we go to court, we will need some quick and intense fundraising. We have all the confidence in our great community that you would once again, rise to the challenge. After all, hundreds of us have been working together to prevent this development for 10 years.

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Thank you to all that have worked so hard, and contributed towards the goal of stopping the Alta Mira development in Joshua Tree.
Our California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit from October 2016, is still open and active, and it is doing its job, for now. In mid-September, we granted the developers a second sixth-month stay to give them more time to explore alternate designs or solutions for the property.
As of now, we are not pushing fundraising. The lawyer is paid up to date, and there are no other outstanding expenses. The ball is in the developer’s court, as they say. If you feel moved to donate, we won’t say no.
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The JT105 Alliance filed a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit against the County and the developers of Altamira on October 28, 2016. Since then, 89 people have donated $8,683, to pay for the legal expenses via check or on https://www.gofundme.com/stop-altamira. THANK YOU!!!! We have paid the lawyer and the court fees for the filing of the well-written petition, and hopefully have enough to pay for their time, since. We are waiting on the second invoice, and will send out word if we need more funds.
The CEQA lawsuit process requires a mandatory settlement discussion to see if the case can avoid trial. The JT105 Alliance offered the developers two options to possibly avoid trial. The best result of a trial would be that the judge would demand that they do a full Environmental Impact Report. That takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. For us opposing the project, we would have had to continue arguing through this long EIR process, all with the hope that the end result would be that an alternate design be required. SO, with that in mind we sent these two options.
1) Donate the land to the Mojave Desert Land Trust. THE MDLT would have to decide whether to accept the donation. We can’t speak for MDLT, but there is a good chance that they would not want to hold that parcel in perpetuity. If they did accept it, they may hold it temporarily, and try to do something like the following option with the land.
2) Redesign the tract map so that the western third/half, which is crossed by streambeds/flood plain, would remain natural as a conservation easement, or possibly County Floodway. The eastern section would be divided into 1 to 2.5 acre lots. No mass grading. Grading would only occur, as needed, for the few roads, driveways, and approximately 40 house pads. No wall or gate. They would not need the large, ugly, drainage retention basin right along Alta Loma. The waste treatment plant could be reduced in size as well, or possibly it could work out that they don’t need one. That is exactly the thing that the developers need time to really look into. The roads, that we suggested would encourage traffic away from the four-way stop at Alta Loma/Sunny Vista.
The developers were much more interested in looking into these options than we expected. We had a conference call with five of the core JT105 Alliance leaders, our lawyer, their lawyer, and the County lawyer, in January. We could not discuss any specifics until the agreement was signed by the judge. After some discussion, a six-month stay was agreed upon, on March 17, so that the developers could explore these options, during which they are not to pursue any permits for construction. So, we can still sue at the end of the 6 months, or after 4 months, with written notice.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, an eagle-eyed community member notified us that the developers had listed the project for sale, with the tract map approval as a key marketing point ! The developers did not tell us this. They listed it in December, and we had our conference settlement call in January. http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/20103802/Alta-Loma-Drive-Sunny-Vista-Road-Joshua-Tree-CA/ This breach of trust does not really impact the bottom line. IF they were to sell the land, the lawsuit, and the wrath of hundreds, would be inherited by the new owner if they tried to pursue the tract map as it is. The realtor has been informed. Any potential buyer should be savvy enough to google “Altamira Joshua Tree” (or similar) and up comes tons of information, showing ten years of resistance.
Another important issue that we need to stay on top of is the update to our Joshua Tree Community Plan. A few of us went to the November Planning Commission workshop about the updates. The consultants ran through over a dozen plan updates, showing zoning map changes. When they got to Joshua Tree, Commissioner Weldy pointed out that the area where Altamira is proposed was still at a higher density. In the discussion with Planning Staff that followed, it dawned on the Commissioners that we were not getting the opportunity to review these map changes. So, they directed the Planning Staff to bring these map changes back to the communities for review. When that does happen, we need to downzone that area as it should have been back in 2007 to align with the Joshua Tree Community Plan (which is one of the main points of the lawsuit). They had suggested some other zoning changes to JT, without any real substance behind the decisions, so all of it needs to be discussed.
See http://www.mbconservation.org/alta_mira_housing_project for more information. Some new documents may not be available for a few days.
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$8,808 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 92 people in 23 months
Created November 14, 2016
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AD
$25
Annika Doss
18 months ago (Offline Donation)
LP
$25
Lenna Petterssons
18 months ago (Offline Donation)
KM
$50
Kristen Mery
18 months ago

Thanks for the update. "Good" news.

GK
$50
George Kopp
18 months ago

Thank you, Janet, and everyone who has worked to stop this project.

DT
$60
Debbi Truncale
20 months ago (Offline Donation)
GA
$100
Gayle Austin
21 months ago (Offline Donation)
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