Massive development threatens Nuevo area’s wildlife, public health

A■ J.P. Rose / Contributed
massive, sprawling development may soon fundamentally transform the rural Nuevo community. This new city, full of tens of thousands of people, would generate more air pollution and gridlock in Riverside County and endanger wildlife habitat that taxpayers forked out millions of dollars to protect.
The development, called Villages of Lakeview, is being considered for approval by the county. But community members still have a chance to stop this controversial project by voicing their opposition to the county board of supervisors.
Speaking up is vital. Villages of Lakeview exemplifies the outmoded sprawl model of development that has resulted in the horrible traffic jams, multi-hour commutes, and unhealthy air for which Southern California is infamous.
Kids in Riverside County already breathe some of the nation’s dirtiest air. The county received an “F” for air quality from the American Lung Association – second only to San Bernardino County as the state’s worst. Such extreme air pollution can cause illness and premature death from asthma, lung cancer, and other health problems.
Villages of Lakeview will make things worse by putting more polluting cars on the road. Even the county’s own environmental review concedes the project would increase the imbalance between jobs and housing in the Nuevo area. And the Southern California Association of Governments says developments like this are too intense for the community.
But if the county approves the project, it would not be the first time the county put the desires of developers before the needs of community.
Five years ago, a Riverside Superior Court judge rejected a nearly identical version of the project because the county failed to disclose health risks, greenhouse gas pollution, and traffic impacts.
Now, instead of shelving the project, the county is poised to approve it a second time.
That would take a tremendous toll on wildlife. Inserting 36,000 people next to a sensitive wildlife area demonstrates reckless and short-sighted land-use planning.
The San Jacinto Wildlife Area was set aside for imperiled wildlife in 1979 and is enjoyed by bird watchers, hikers and hunters. Spanning 19,000 acres, it provides rare habitat for dozens of imperiled species in the region. And it functions as an outdoor classroom for local schools.
Intensive human activity and associated noise, light, and water pollution will endanger wildlife that live in the refuge. Conflicts between people and wildlife will be inevitable – pet cats will kill imperiled birds near the refuge, and coyotes will eat residents’ pets.
The wildlife refuge already is at risk from other projects. The city of Moreno Valley recently approved a 2,600-acre warehouse complex called the World Logistics Center near the refuge.
If the World Logistic Center is built, it would cover one-tenth of the city’s land in warehouse uses, add 14,000 truck trips per day to the area, and interfere with birds migrating on the Pacific Flyway to the refuge.
At the planning commission’s Sept. 6 hearing, dozens of community members – including children – pleaded with the commission to stop Villages of Lakeview. Very few people spoke in favor of it.
The county should reject the project and focus on tackling the housing shortage by encouraging development in urbanized areas.
The county has a duty to protect the rights of residents to clean air and healthy ecosystems. The community can stand up for these rights and California’s natural heritage by resisting this incredibly foolish project.
J.P. Rose is an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s urban wildlands program.

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