Lake Miramar Project Foes Qualify for Vote

Times Staff Writer

The Save Miramar Lake Committee has collected enough valid signatures on petitions to force a citywide referendum on a developer’s plan to build 3,360 homes north of Lake Miramar, San Diego City Clerk Charles Abdelnour said Friday.

A sample by the county registrar of voters of 5% of the names turned in by the group Feb. 7 and 8 showed that it collected 37,718 valid signatures, far more than the 25,594 needed to qualify for the ballot, Abdelnour said.

‘Inevitable Battle’

“I’m jubilant, extremely pleased,” said J. Gary Underwood, co-chairman of the organization, which gathered more than 47,000 signatures in one month to force the vote. “We knew we had it, and I guess the next step now is to prepare for the inevitable battle with the developer.”


In a related development, Bob Glaser, co-chairman of San Diegans for Managed Growth (SDMG), said Friday that his organization has decided to mount a petition drive to place a citywide initiative protecting San Diego’s environmentally sensitive lands on an upcoming ballot.

SDMG is still evaluating whether to aim for the San Diego City Council primary elections Sept. 19 or a later ballot, but has concluded that the compromise growth-management plan approved by the council in January does not adequately protect hillsides, flood plains and wetlands.

“It’s window dressing,” said Glaser, who also serves as attorney for the Save Miramar Lake Committee. “It’s not a plan. It’s captions and slogans and directions to staff to write a plan.”

Two environmental protection plans, one forwarded by the City Council and another written by Citizens for Limited Growth, were defeated in last November’s election. Both were part of growth-management plans that included controversial caps on home construction.


SDMG last year mounted a campaign to place a separate environmental protection ordinance on the ballot, but abandoned that effort in favor of working to help shape the city’s plan. Some SDMG leaders were dissatisfied with the final city product, claiming that it had been gutted by development industry representatives who were also on a city-appointed committee that wrote the plan.

The Miramar Lake referendum, which is being closely watched by the city’s environmental and slow-growth leaders, faces at least two obstacles before Abdelnour can certify it for placement on the ballot.

BCE Has Filed Suit

BCE Development, which has an approved “development agreement” to build the homes on 1,200 acres in Miramar Ranch North, has filed suit in Superior Court to declare the petitions invalid. A hearing on that matter will be held Tuesday.

Also, BCE or any other interested party can force Abdelnour to check the validity of every signature by paying about $30,000 for the effort by Thursday evening. Donna Nenow, spokeswoman for BCE, said that the company had made no decision on the matter.

If the referendum is certified by Abdelnour, the council must rescind the development agreement or place the referendum before voters within 11 months. Abdelnour’s office has suggested that the Sept. 19 primary, which will be the first election conducted under the city’s new district-only voting plan, would be the most economical time to hold the election.

Four council members--including District 5 representative Ed Struiksma, who represents the area and strongly backs the development project--are running for re-election in the primary.

Struiksma said Friday that, with the court action pending, it is too early for him to comment on when the referendum might be held and how it could affect his re-election chances.


Only 658 Homes Opposed

Underwood’s group opposes only 658 of the homes, an industrial park and a road slated to be built on the picturesque hills immediately north of the lake. But, because the city granted BCE a development agreement, a binding contract under which the city gives the developer a guaranteed right to build the homes in return for early construction of schools, parks, roads and a library, the community group must overturn the entire project.

Underwood called on the council to rescind the agreement, eliminating the need for a referendum. “I hope the City Council saves everybody a lot of money,” Underwood said.

Underwood’s group, relying heavily on volunteers, spent $20,353 to qualify for the ballot. A rival group, backed by $445,000 of BCE’s money, spent $457,000 to oppose that effort and collect more than 52,000 signatures supporting BCE’s plans.