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San Diego’s First Carbon Neutral Community

 

Q: What is a carbon neutral community?

A: A “carbon neutral” community has a net zero GHG emissions footprint, meaning that it balances the amount of GHGs released with an equivalent amount of GHG reductions through the utilization of both on- and off-site reduction strategies. 

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Q: Why is it important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Greenhouse gas emissions are a leading contributor to global climate change, which leads to rising temperatures, decreasing water supplies, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and loss of biological diversity. The State of California and Governor Brown have adopted laws and policies that make reducing greenhouse gas emissions a top priority across multiple business sectors, pushing California to the forefront of the efforts to address the sources and effects of climate change. The Sierra community assists California’s efforts to address global climate change by implementing design strategies and other measures to reduce the community’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.

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Q: How will the Sierra community achieve carbon neutrality?

A: The Sierra community includes a suite of on-site strategies and amenities that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including:

  • A complementary mix of land uses that will provide the community’s residents with on-site shopping and dining opportunities, extensive recreation options, and a neighborhood school.
  • Integrated multi-use trails that provide connectivity between the community’s various neighborhoods and establish a pedestrian and bicyclist orientation in the community’s character.  
  • Rooftop solar on all of the residential units, as well as the installation of Energy Star® or equivalent appliances.
  • Charging stations for electric vehicles in the garages of all single-family homes, as well as in the Town Center.
  • An electric bike-share program that will serve each of the community’s neighborhoods and promote sustainable transportation on the site.
  • A carshare program that provides access to on-demand vehicles at three stations located in the Town Center.
  • A local shuttle service that will provide the community’s residents with a sustainable transportation option that serves both on-site areas and external transit facilities.
  • Transit fare subsidies for the community’s residents and employees. 
  • Various water and waste reduction features, such as limits on the use of turf grass. 
  • Investments in carbon offsets with high environmental integrity that are associated with greenhouse gas reduction activities around the world, carrying on the tradition of California’s businesses working with California’s policy leaders to lead by example.

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Q: Is the Sierra community’s commitment to carbon neutrality consistent with California’s greenhouse gas reduction policies?

A: Yes. The California Air Resources Board believes that achieving no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions – i.e., achieving carbon neutrality – is the “correct overall objective” for new development. The Sierra community has embraced that objective, and will create a sustainable community that provides much needed housing in the San Diego region while simultaneously ensuring that the community results in no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The Sierra community’s commitment is precedent-setting for the San Diego region, and honors the region’s long-standing position as an active participant in the California’s efforts to innovate and grow while successfully stewarding its unique resources.

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Benefits of a Specific Plan Compared to the Current General Plan

 

Q:  So why not just stick to the County’s General Plan for this location?

A: The County’s General Plan currently contains Land Use Designations for this property that would provide for 99 residential units, and over 2 million square feet of commercial and retail zoning (roughly the same size as two campuses for Cal State San Marcos). 

There is a higher and better use for this property as a new mixed use community that will provide housing for the next generation of North County families, as well as preservation of open space for the public, retail services and a school to accommodate the residents and the surrounding area. 

There is a demand for new housing in San Diego given the current housing shortage where a broad mix of housing types and pricing will support our growing population. 

There is not demand for 2 million square feet of big box retailers and commercial office buildings. 

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Q: Wouldn’t the General Plan uses create less traffic?

A: No.  In fact, while the estimated average daily traffic for Newland Sierra is slightly higher than those that would be generated by the General Plan land uses, the PEAK hour traffic in the morning and evening commute periods would be greater under the General Plan due to traffic generated by office professional and larger scale retail. 

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Q: What about the use of water compared to the General Plan?

A: The projected water consumption at Newland Sierra will be 34% less than the General Plan land uses, according to an analysis done by the Vallecitos Water, the water agency for this area of North County.  This is due to water conservation standards we are requiring for the community, and specific features in the community that have been designed to ensure reduced water consumption such as the prohibition of turf in front yards, and common areas.

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Minimizing Traffic Impacts

 

Q: What is being done to address the additional traffic this project will create?

A: If you live in the Twin Oaks Valley area, or travel Deer Springs Road to connect to work or school, you know that Deer Springs Road and its connection to I-15 is inadequate, resulting in long waits to get on and off the freeway during peak times, causing congestion along Deer Springs Road and Twin Oaks Valley Road to the south. Our team of engineering and traffic experts has been working through alternatives for the improvement of Deer Springs Road, and a modified freeway interchange that would add capacity, allowing vehicles to enter and exit the freeway more rapidly. Deer Springs Road will be improved along its entire stretch and widened at the I-15 interchange, as well as to the west where Deer Springs Road continues into San Marcos. Our goal is to propose a plan for Deer Springs Road that fixes the traffic issues that exist today and accommodates the new community.

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Q: How are you proposing to modify the I-15 / Deer Springs Road interchange?

A: Working with Caltrans, multiple interchange design alternatives will be explored. A final design solution and the accompanying environmental impact analysis (CEQA/NEPA) will be undertaken through Caltran’s PID process. 

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Q: Won’t the widening of Deer Springs Road encourage more out-of-the-area travelers to use the road as a shortcut to San Marcos and other communities?

A: The County’s General Plan calls for Deer Springs Road to be widened to a six-lane road in the future to support the County’s overall projected General Plan build-out. Based on the current traffic situation and the addition of Newland Sierra, we are proposing that Deer Spring Road included four lanes with bike paths, pathways, and a widened shoulder. This proposed design would actually be less impactful than a six-lane road, while still accommodating existing traffic, Newland Sierra’s traffic, and community and future local traffic.

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Q: Will any public transportation be incorporated into the project?

A: Yes. There are multiple transportation features planned for the community. For one, an HOA funded shuttle will provide residents direct access to the Escondido Transit Center with links to the Breeze, Sprinter and the Coaster. Also, depending on the final design for the I-15 interchange, there is an opportunity to expand and redesign the existing park-and-ride parking lot at Deer Springs Road to provide a multimodal location to potentially accommodate future public transit uses like buses, ridesharing, and carpooling.

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Q: Will the community be bike-friendly?

A: Yes. We will incorporate bike lanes along the main loop road and provide shoulder-designated bike routes linking to each neighborhood, neighborhood parks, and the town center. In addition, the linear park along the main loop road is proposed to include an 8-foot-wide pathway that can accommodate bike travel which will connect to the multi-use trail within the open space preserve. The planned bike lanes will also connect to Deer Springs Road and include 8-foot shoulders designated as bike routes. This will provide continual bike access along Deer Springs Road adjacent to the community and connect to Twin Oaks Valley into the San Marcos bike lane system. We are also developing a plan to incorporate a bike-sharing program that will allow residents to have convenient access to bicycles throughout the community.

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Reducing Vehicle Miles from the Community

 

Q: What are you doing to answer the Governor’s call for Californians to reduce their vehicle miles travelled?

A: Newland Sierra will have community specific transportation features managed by an on-site Transportation Coordinator including an on-site electric bike sharing program to allow residents to check out electric bikes to pedal between neighborhoods, parks and the Town Center; the operation of an internal on-site shuttle service for residents to access the Town Center and school without getting in their car, as well as shuttle service to the Escondido Transit Center to easily access regional transit services where residents can use transit passes subsidized by the HOA.

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Managing the Threats of Wildfires

 

Q: San Diego County has experienced large wildfires in the past. What is being done to reduce the threat of fire in the area?

A: The risk of wildfire is of paramount importance to the people of San Diego County, including those on our team. So, we have spent a great deal of time on this subject, including meeting with local fire officials and nearby residents to collect their input.

To reduce the fire threat, we plan to: incorporate strict fire-resistant building standards; provide maintained fuel modification areas to reduce large areas of overgrown vegetation on the property—which has not burned in a century—and create a well-designed evacuation plan, in cooperation with the fire authorities, enabling residents to leave the area as quickly and safely as possible.

New Building Standards

It is proposed that all structures will be required to be built to include fire-resistant features that provide the highest level of protection. These include automatic fire sprinkler systems, ignition-resistant exterior materials, fire-resistant roofing, ember and flame-resistant openings.

Vegetation Reduction

The property today includes a native chaparral that presents a significant fuel source for wildfires. Much of this vegetation is planned to be cleared through the creation of a two-layer fuel modification zone, which will establish a 250-foot buffer of defensible space around the developed area, including all residential areas and the Town Center. This is 2.5 times the required 100-foot buffer. We have also identified “special management areas” for fuel reduction within the property.

All this will help prevent fires from reaching the homes, and impede their ability to spread into nearby communities. 

Evacuation Plan

Working with local fire officials, a community evacuation plan has been designed that would enable the rapid evacuation of residents in the event of a fire.

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Q: Will this be a “shelter-in-place” community?

A: No. After consulting with fire officials, we believe that an evacuation plan is most appropriate for this community. However, like many newer communities that incorporate a redundant layered fire protection system like Newland Sierra, fire and law enforcement officials would have the option of assigning temporary refuge if conditions were considered unsafe to evacuate. The HOA will formally adopt the "Ready, Set, Go" approach to resident fire preparation, which is encouraged and endorsed by the state and local jurisdictions.

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Promoting Water Conservation

 

Q: Given that our state is currently experiencing a drought, how will this project minimize its water use?

A: Recognizing California’s water challenges, Newland is planning this project to be one of the most water-efficient communities ever built in San Diego County. Everything we plan to do will be water-wise. For example, high-water-use turf lawns will not be permitted in front yards and common areas—only “Water Smart” drought-tolerant landscaping will be allowed. In addition, planned water-recycling standards will require, among other measures, that homes be plumbed for dual plumbing graywater systems, providing for the capture and reuse of water from washing machines for outdoor landscaping.

It’s important to note that because of new technologies and standards, today’s homes are using dramatically less water than homes built just a few years ago. According to a report by the California Homebuilding Foundation, a new three-bedroom single-family home in California with four occupants uses 38 percent less indoor water than a similar-sized home built in 2005 and more than 50 percent less water than a home built in 1980, unless those older homes have been retrofitted to today’s standards.  

Click here to see California Homebuilding Foundation report.

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Q: Will the area’s water district—the Vallecitos Water District—be able to serve the new community?

A: VWD has issued a “will serve” letter for the project and has stated that water supplies exist for the needs of this project.

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Q: Will current residents with Vallecitos have to reduce their water consumption if this project is approved?

A: No. Vallecitos Water District, the water agency that would serve Newland Sierra, prepared a Water Supply Assessment for the proposed project that shows that there is sufficient water supply projected to serve the community.

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Types of Housing

 

Q: What types of housing will be built?

A: A mixture of for-sale homes is proposed. No apartments or rental homes are proposed. The homes will be a variety of single-family detached homes, attached townhomes, cluster homes, age-targeted, and larger lot single-family homes.

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Q: Will there be any rental units?

A: No rental apartment buildings are proposed for the community.

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Q: Are there any “affordable housing” requirements for the community?

A: The County of San Diego does not require subsidized or otherwise “income-restricted” housing to be provided in a project. However, we do plan to have a variety of housing types available, including some at price points that are attainable for middle-income families.

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Community Character

 

Q: What will the new homes look like?

A: Each neighborhood planned will be required to include a broad diversity of housing types and styles with homes that incorporate natural, rustic materials as features, and that are designed in building forms that respect the traditional ranch-style homes and character of the area. High quality material, attention to detail, refined craftsmanship, and strong execution of design will be required of each homebuilder through stringent Design Guidelines created by the master developer, Newland Communities. 

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Q: What about the retail center?

A: The retail center is part of the proposed Town Center neighborhood which is located off Deer Springs Road closest to I-15. The Town Center is planned to include approximately 81,000 square feet of commercial space and will be designed to be compact and walkable for residents of the community, but with ample parking for shoppers from the surrounding area. Plans for the Town Center include a centrally located plaza and public park, and a variety of retail and food options, including a mid-size grocery store, restaurants, a dry cleaner, a postal store and other convenient services.

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Q: Will the community be gated?

A: No. The entire community is planned to be served by public roads with none of the neighborhoods gated. 

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Parks

 

Q: How many parks are planned to be built in the community?

A: The community plans to feature 36 acres of parks—14 community and neighborhood parks and 5 smaller pocket parks of various sizes located throughout the neighborhoods. A linear pathway and trail network is planned to provide a pedestrian or bike connection between the neighborhood parks and community trails. Each park is proposed to have a unique program and theme which responds to the surrounding neighborhood—a variety of uses and activities will be accommodated including kids’ play areas, dog parks, community gardens, pools, open turf for active play, exercise nodes, and planned electric bike share stations will provide connectivity between the parks.

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Q: What types of ball fields or other facilities will be built to promote active lifestyles?

A: The planned community park in the Knoll neighborhood will be the largest of the parks, and is planned for 8.86 acres. It will include a 2-acre open turf area to accommodate active play like youth football and soccer. In addition, there is a joint-use park proposed at the school site in the Town Center that also includes a large turf area and a backstop for little league baseball play. Other parks will include children’s play areas, circuit walks, fitness nodes, hiking trails, and bike share facilities - all to promote an active lifestyle.

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Q: Will anyone be able to use the parks, or just residents of the community?

A: Several of the parks, as well as the 1,209 acres of open space, plan to be designated for public access and open to public use. These parks will be easily accessible from the main loop road and also be accessible by on-street bike routes, as well by the pathway and trail network.  

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Trails and Open Space

 

Q: Has a trail map been developed?

A:  Although the trails have been included in the Specific Plan and the tentative map, a trail map has not yet been developed for use by the public but will be once the project is approved and the trails built. We have planned an extensive trail system (approximately 19 miles of trails) within the community as well as in the open space preserve that will be accessible to the public for use by walkers, joggers, cyclists, and equestrians. Also planned are 16 trail overlooks.

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Q: How wide will the trails be and what uses will be allowed?

A: There is planned to be a variety of trail types in the 19-mile network, including 8-foot wide soft-surface pathways along the main loop road, and 8-foot wide soft-surface, multi-use trails in the open space preserve. The trails through the open space will be maintained by either the County or the same entity that maintains the preserve. This decision will be finalized as we move through the processing of the project.

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Q: Who will maintain the trails?

A: The roadside pathways through the community will be maintained by the homeowners’ association. The trails through the open space will be maintained by either the County or the same entity that maintains the preserve. This decision will be finalized as we move through the processing of the project.

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Q: Will an equestrian staging area be incorporated into the trail system?

A: A staging area is planned to be located on the north part of the community at the trailhead for the open space preserve. Our intent is to include a large parking area with pull-through parking spaces for multiple trucks and horse trailers, a separate parking area for cars, a few holding corrals for horses, and additional hitching posts in key locations. It's planned for there to be potable water available with troughs for the horses. We also plan to include picnic tables in a shaded area, and an interpretive display at the trailhead.

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Q: How much open space will there be and who will own and maintain it?

A: The open space preserve planned will be approximately 1,209 acres—primarily in the north part of the community. The management entity has not yet been chosen, but large preserves such as this one are typically dedicated to either the County or another third-party preservation entity and the funds to manage the preserve long term are generally provided by the developer via an endowment. 

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Wildlife

 

Q: What is being done to preserve wildlife?

A: The project site is surrounded by one of the largest pieces of contiguous habitat west of I-15 in central San Diego County. The planned 1,209 acres of predominantly native habitat will connect to adjacent, off-site open space and create an interconnected network of designated habitat. This open space system will contribute to the viability of both small and large wildlife that may seek passage through, and refuge within, the Newland Sierra community.

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Vineyards

 

Q: It's been rumored that vineyards are being incorporated into the community. How will they be used and who will operate and maintain them?

A: Yes, vineyards are part of our proposal. Approximately 20 acres of vineyard plantings strategically located on the slopes along the main loop road will create a unique visual identity for the community, and will establish a connection to the region’s agrarian history, as well as provide for a productive landscape. The vineyards are proposed to be set back 80’ from the street and 100’ from residential lots, and be maintained by a third-party viticulturist contracted through the homeowners’ association.

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Commercial Area

 

Q: What types of businesses are you hoping to attract to the commercial area?

A: One of the comments we have heard many times from our neighbors is the area's lack of a grocery store and other neighborhood services. Our goal is to attract convenience and service oriented retailers such as a drugstore, laundry and dry-cleaning services, or mail and shipping store, and anchor these smaller stores with a medium-sized grocery store and other restaurant and food options. This neighborhood shopping center would be primarily used by residents of the community and the local area.  

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Schools

 

Q: Where will children living in the community go to school?

A: This area is served by the San Marcos Unified School District (K-12), the Escondido Union Elementary School District (K-8), and the Escondido High School District (9-12). Our preliminary school generation rate indicates that approximately 490 students will be in the San Marcos District (a), and approximately 297 students will be in the Escondido Districts (b-c). It is our plan to include a site for a future K-8 school, which would be available to residents and others in the area.  

  • (a) Student generation rate calculated using the School Facilities Needs Analysis prepared for San Marcos Unified School District by Dolikna Group dated April 14, 2016.  Subject to change according to future School Facilities Needs Analysis.
  • (b) Student generation rate calculated using the School Facilities Needs Analysis prepared for Escondido Union School District by Dolinka Group dated March 28, 2016.  Subject to change according to future School Facilities Needs Analysis.
  • (c) Student generation rate calculated using the Residential Development School Fee Justification Study prepared for Escondido High School District by Dolinka Group dated March 29, 2016.  Subject to change according to future Justification Study.

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Grading

 

Q: The property will undoubtedly need to be graded. Will there be any blasting? If so, where will the work be done, and when will that work be done?

A: We have developed a preliminary grading plan for the project that will be available as part of the public circulation of the Specific Plan and draft EIR to give the public more information on the grading and blasting required. We are working hard to reduce the severity, times, and duration of all grading activity, especially blasting. We will be providing more information on this subject as we move through the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process.

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Q: Will there be any so-called “ridgeline development?”

A: No. None of the homes in the community are planned to be built on ridgelines. One of our guiding principles for planning this project is to respect the natural character of the topography as much as possible and building homes on ridgelines would not be consistent with that goal.

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Miscellaneous

 

Q: When do you expect work on the project to begin and the first homes to be ready for sale?

A: If approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2018, work would be planned to begin in 2019. With a 2019 start to construction we estimate that the first homes could be ready for sale sometime in 2021.

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Q: Will an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be done?

A: Yes. A Draft EIR for the project has prepared and circulated as of June 15, 2017.  The Draft EIR may be accessed at the County of San Diego website

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Q: Will there by any homeowners’ association fees? If so, how much will they be?

A: A homeowners’ association will be created to manage and maintain the common areas, including the parks, trails, and other common areas. HOA fees have not been determined.

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