Bill Hocker | Jan 6, 2022Update 1/6/22
CA Atty Gen press release: Attorney General Bonta Secures Court Decision Vacating Approval of Lake County Development Project in Area That Has Burned Repeatedly
From the press release:
"Local governments and developers have a responsibility to take a hard look at projects that exacerbate wildfire risk and endanger our communities."
The Court's decision is here
From the Court decision:
"The project's impacts to community evacuation routes, however, must be analysed in the EIR.".
"The County concluded the impacts to existing evacuation plans would be less than significant. The evidence supporting this conclusion are composed primarily of opinions from traffic engineers and fire and law enforcement personel. Those opinions were not based on any identifiable facts."
"The conclusion reached by the County as it relates to emergency evacuation plans is based on unsubstantiated expert opinion. The evidence is legally insufficient to qualify as
substantial evidence under CEQA."
SacramentoBee 1/6/22: Judge halts mega-resort in California wildfire zone, says residents could die trying to flee
It is tempting to view this ruling in relation to our situation with the Mountain Peak Winery on Soda Canyon Road. Both involve the potential to add more people to the logjam of residents attempting to escape a major fire on constricted access routes. There is, of course, a difference is of scale. 4000 added people fleeing the Guenoc valley is a lot more than 200 extra people fleeing down Soda Canyon Road. (Of course our long one-way road is a much stricter constraint than the multiple directions Guenoc valley residents might take).
But the real difference lies in the Judge's recognition that the approval was "not based on identifiable fact". Both were approved by county governments obviously more interested in the real promise of economic benefit than the hypothetical of community safety. Both relied on theoretical "mitigations" to claim the danger posed by wildfires would be "less-than-significant". Both relied on "opinions from traffic engineers and fire and law enforcement personel". The difference here is that the decision in Mountain Peak was made in spite of
identifiable facts that contradicted the expert opinion: namely that residents were trapped by a fallen tree at a critical moment, and that residents had to be evacuated by helicopter from the end of the road. Another 200 workers and visitors wanting out would have greatly endangered the lives of the several dozen residents that endured the harrowing evacuations on that fiercely windy night.
SH Star 2/3/21: State seeks to join lawsuit against Lake County resort approval
SR PressDemocrat 2/6/21: California enters legal fight over massive Lake County resort, housing project
Attorney General's press release on motion
State's Motion to Intervene
SH Star 9/7/20: Environmental group sues over approval of major Lake County resort
NVR 7/201/20: Major Lake County resort development approved
Considering the two month turnaround between the Draft EIR presentation and the FEIR approval, given the massive scale of a project that will change the character of both southern Lake County and northern Napa County forever, this looks like a brazen example of a wealthy international investor
squeezing a small county government to quickly rubber stamp a major project with the lubricant and promise of big, easy money
Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR)
Lotusland Guenoc Valley website
Lotusland Investment website:
The connection to Soda Canyon Road: Howard Backen, the lead architect on the Guenoc project, is also the architect of the Mountain Peak Project (another international investment) as well as of a nearby $13.5 million estate
prominently featured on the Lotusland website.
SH Star 7/16/20: Second public hearing set for Guenoc Valley project, massive resort development
7/7/20 Lake County BOS agenda and documents
6/25/20 Lake County Planning Commission Agenda and Documents
Center for Biological Diversity Letter
Calif State DOJ Fire concerns letter
Other response letters here
Some 4400 vehicle trips a day will be added to Napa Valley's traffic by the project, all passing thorugh Napa CIty and many probably passing through Angwin (rather than the longer route through Calistoga and Tubbs Lane), and yet Napa county governments or their affected citizens seem to have no real influence beyond letters of concern. As the FEIR states, "It should be noted that no project components or related improvements would occur within Napa County." Butt out.
SH Star 6/9/20: Massive resort development planned in southern Lake County
16,000 acre development
850 hotel and resort rental units
1400 residential vineyard estates
500 worker SRO's on site
50 unit workforce houses off site
865,395 sf commercial/retail
spa, entertainment, equestrian, camping facilities
850,000 gal/yr wineries
14783 trips/day generated
4434 trips/day through the Napa Valley
, the only access from the Bay Area
Lake County Guenoc Valley Mixed-Use Planned Development Project
EIR Notice of availability
Final EIR for the Project
Lake County News 5/16/17: Middletown Area Town Hall hears update on Guenoc Valley project