Highway 68 Corridor Issues & Actions:
Encina Hills / Harper Canyon
The Encina Hills project (also known as the Harper Canyon subdivision) would create 17 lots on 164 acres along Highway 68. Lots would range from 5 acres to over 23 acres.
LandWatch Position: Partial Appellate Win
Project Status: Supervisors to Rescind Project & EIR
The project applicant is Harper Canyon Realty LLC.
The project (as approved) proposes to subdivide one 344 acre parcel into 17 single-family lots on 164 acres with one 180 acre remainder parcel.
The County of Monterey is the lead agency.
The project is governed by the policies of the 1982 Monterey County General Plan.
- Developer must do analysis of wildlife corridor per CEQA requirements, per appellate decision -- April 2021.
- Sixth District Appellate Court ruled against Landwatch, but for Meyer Community (See unpublished opinion in H046932) on March 29, 2021.
- Monterey County Superior Court Judge Wills ruled for Plaintiff LandWatch on water and EIR recirculation issues and for Co-Plaintiff Meyer Community on wildlife corridor issue on December 3, 2018.
Judge Wills issues an Intended Decision and rules in favor of LandWatch in August 2018.
- LandWatch and co-petitioner The Meyer Community filed a lawsuit against the County of Monterey for its approval of the Encina Hills project in April 2015.
The Board of Supervisors approved project April 2015.
The project was heard January and February 2014 by the Monterey County Planning Commission. The Commission voted 5-4 to deny the development project. The developer appealed to the County Board of Supervisors. Download the Commission’s Staff Report. (2.1M PDF file)
The Revised Final Environmental Impact Report was released in December 2013. (10.6M PDF file)
The Final Environmental Impact Report was circulated in June 2010. (19.8M PDF file)
The Draft Environmental Impact Report was released in October 2008. (46.8M PDF file)
The Notice of Preparation was circulated for 30 days in July 2005.
Project Location Map
The proposed Harper Canyon / Encina Hills project is southwest of Salinas near Highway 68 (142K PDF file)
Map Credit: County of Monterey, Harper Canyon/Eninca Hills Draft Environmental Impact Report (October 2008)
The proposed Harper Canyon / Encina Hills project abuts Harper Canyon Road near Toro Regional Park. (488K PDF file)
Map Credit: County of Monterey, Harper Canyon/Eninca Hills Draft Environmental Impact Report (October 2008)
|The proposed residential development with Harper Canyon’s project location behind Ferrini Ranch. (4.2M PDF file}|
Resources At Risk
- Poor Planning
This project is a text-book example of suburban sprawl.
- Water Supply
The water supply and quality in this area are already in crisis, and the Encina Hills project would exacerbate existing traffic problems without offering any meaningful mitigation.
The project includes development on slopes greater than 30% and removal of 79 coast live oak trees.
LandWatch engages in the public process in a variety of ways. For this project, here is a list of our engagement strategies.
Panel Determines Petitioner Partial Victory (279K PDF file)
A panel of three judges in the Encina Hills case determined that the County did not meet its substantial evidence requirement and ruled in favor of petitioners (LandWatch Monterey County). The key issue was wildlife corridors. The panel ruled that the Environmental Impact Report and project approvals be overturned. (03.29.21)
- Press Release: LandWatch Wins Its Challenge Over County’s Harper Canyon Approval (51K PDF file)
Judge Wills released his intended decision in LandWatch’s favor for Harper Canyon case. Citing direct CEQA violations, Wills held that the County precluded meaningful public input. (09.06.18)
- Legal Briefs: The Record of LandWatch Court Documents
As part of our legal proceedings on the Harper Canyon case, we’ve compiled the following court documents:
- Intended Decision by Judge Wills (2.6M PDF file)
- Writ of Mandate filed by LandWatch (252K PDF file) (05.04.15)
- Opening Brief filed by LandWatch (375K PDF file) (08.16.16)
- Reply Brief filed by LandWatch (217K PDF file) (02.14.17)
- Supplement Brief filed by LandWatch (4.3M PDF file) (04.10.18)
- Motion to Oppose Reopening the Case filed by LandWatch (446K PDF file) (06.22.18)
- Joint Opposition and Opening Brief (05.20.20) (1.4M PDF)
- Joint Reply Brief (09.08.20) (561K PDF)
- Amici Brief Submitted to Support Appellants by: California Building Industry Association, California Business Properties Association, Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, and Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation (09.22.20) (433K PDF)
- Amici Brief Submitted to Support Appellants by: California State Association of Counties and League of Cities (09.22.20) (527K PDF)
- Joint Reply Brief to Amici Brief (10.08.20) (284K PDF)
- Letter: Urges Denial of the Project (119K PDF file)
LandWatch urges denial of the project because 1) the environmental review is inadequate and 2) the Board cannot make the required findings that the Project would be consistent with General Plan policies related to water supply and traffic. (04.06.15)
- Letter: Urges Denial of the Project (273 K PDF file)
LandWatch's technical expert confirms the project should be denied because 1) the
environmental review is inadequate and 2) the Board cannot make the required findings that the Project would be consistent with General Plan policies related to water supply. (03.02.15)
Letter: Comments on the Environmental Analysis of the Project (671 K PDF file)
LandWatch urges the project be denied because the environmental review is inadequate and because the Board cannot make the required findings that the project would be consistent with General Plan policies related to traffic and water supply. (12.01.14)
Letter: Argues Groundwater Well Testing Is Inadequate (65KB PDF file)
LandWatch outlines the requirements for well testing were not adequately met and should be redone. (09.23.14)
Letter: Sets Expectations for Groundwater Well Testing (135K PDF file)
LandWatch establishes its expectations for the groundwater testing before any test is undertaken for source well(s) purporting to provide service to the proposed Harper Canyon development. (07.22.14)
Letter: Urges Planning Commissions Denial of Project (242K PDF file)
LandWatch urges the Planning Commission to deny the project and focuses this letter on the inadequate analysis of the water supply tests. (05.12.14)
Letter: Provides Supplemental Information and Urges Project Denial (204K PDF file)
LandWatch submits this supplemental letter to transmit documents referenced in our
letter urging you to deny the appeal of the Planning Commission’s action on the Harper Canyon project. (05.13.14)
Letter: Opposition to the Project and Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Report (111K PDF file)
LandWatch opposes this project because a sustainable water supply does not exist, the project would have significant cumulative impacts on biological resources and wildlife corridors, and the cumulative traffic impacts from this and myriad other projects in the area would create severe congestion on the already over-burdened roadways. (01.07.14)
Letter: Opposition to the Project Due to Lack of Water (33K PDF file)
LandWatch opposes this project because a sustainable water supply
does not exist, and the cumulative traffic impacts from this and myriad other projects in the area will create severe congestion on the already over-burdened roadways. (06.24.10)
Letter: Comments on the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report (88K PDF file)
LandWatch outlines concerns related to several mitigation measures incorporated into the new environmental analysis. (01.14.10)
Letter: andWatch Monterey County Letter on the Draft EIR (102K PDF file) LandWatch provides initial comments on aesthetics, biological impacts, air quality, groundwater, traffic and circulation, and the alternatives analysis. (12.10.08)
Sometimes our partners engage as well and we capture their input into the process. For this project, below are the relevant items.
Letter: Department of Environmental Health Response (413K PDF File)
The Department of Health outlines the requirements for an alluvial well versus a fractured well test. (09.04.14)
Letter: Confirms 72 Hour Well Test is Required (413K PDF File)
The Department of Health outlines that in fact there needs to be a 72 hour test run, not an eight hour test, of the well in question. (07.24.14)
Proposed Projects Add a Risk in Wildfire Areas
Harper Canyon, Paraiso Hot Springs, among others pose a potentially massive risk to firefighters and homeowners if new houses are placed in wildfire prone hills. Sprawling developments in wildfire areas should not move forward. (08.20.20)
- Judge Overturns Project on Water
LandWatch sued the County over the approval of the Harper Canyon Subdivision and won in court in late August. The judge cited that the environmental review got the geography incorrect and therefore the hydrology. (09.12.18)
Judge Sides with LandWatch
Judge Wills determined that the California Environmental Quality Act was violated since the Harper Canyon project so egregiously ignored facts—especially related to groundwater analysis. LandWatch’s ED Mike DeLapa said, “The project is exactly what should not be allowed: sprawling homes in high fire zones that would overdraft already depleted groundwater.” (09.05.18)
Californian Highlights Harper Canyon Concerns
Great article in the Californian highlighting LandWatch's concerns about Harper Canyon. The two issues mentioned were water supply and traffic. Executive Director Amy White is quoted in the article. Check it out! (04.13.15)
LandWatch OpEd Highlights Bad Land Use Decision
In an OpEd by LandWatch’s Executive Director Amy White, she points out the egregious staff report and the use of false arguments unsupported by facts which led to the approval of the Harper Canyon project. (04.09.15)
Harper Canyon Project on Brink of Approval
LandWatch argued that seawater intrusion was already an issue an approving the Harper Canyon development would further exacerbate the problem. The Board of Supervisors approved the project anyways stating the Groundwater Sustainability Act was not applicable yet. (03.03.15)
Attorney Letter Requests More Time (1.6M PDF file)
The developer's attorney has requested additional time to complete the second well test due to a malfunctioning pump. (11.25.14)
Two Projects Go to Supervisors in December
Both the Ferrini Ranch and Encina Hills (Harper Canyon) projects go before the Board of Supervisors on December 2nd. Both projects have water supply issues but have received different considerations by the Planning Commission. Ferrini Ranch was recommended for approval, while Harper Canyon was not. (11.16.14)
Staff Drafts Denial Language for Supervisors (239K PDF)
The project was back before the Board last week, August 26th, and the developers asked for even more time to conduct the well test. LandWatch hoped the Supervisors would do the right thing by denying the project – denying the project was absolutely in the board’s discretion and planning staff even prepared a resolution for denial. (08.26.14)
Harper Canyon Development Heads to Supervisors
The developer of the Harper Canyon property appealed the Planning Commission’s denial to the Board of Supervisors. The Board is expected to decide the 344-acre project’s fate on May 13. (05.12.14)
Harper Canyon Goes Before Supervisors
As you may recall the Monterey County Planning Commission wisely turned down the Encina Hills/Harper Canyon development proposal in January. The land owner appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.
Through numerous letters commenting on the development proposal, LandWatch outlined the project’s deficiencies, including: poor planning, lack of water supply and steep geologically uncertain slopes.
It is important for you to email the Board of Supervisors (email@example.com) and urge them to reject the developers’ appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s wise “no” vote on this project. Please consider attending the meeting on Tuesday, May 13th at 1:30 PM. Meetings are held at the County offices at: 168 West Alisal St., 1st Floor Salinas, CA 93901. (05.05.14)