Environmental groups have uncovered an email that allegedly reveals a developer or developers’ plan to strike a deal with PG&E so they can build a 15,000-home community in Wild Cherry Canyon near Avila Beach and Diablo Canyon power plant.
If such a deal is in the works, it could violate the terms of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon closure agreement. The email also indicates one of the developers believes the current SLO County Board of Supervisors is supportive of the plan to build the new community.
For years, environmental groups have tried to stave off development of the 2,400-acre Wild Cherry Canyon property, for which a PG&E subsidiary holds the title. The American Land Conservancy failed in its bid to purchase the long-term lease to the property and transfer the land to the state parks system to add onto nearby Montana de Oro.
HomeFed Corporation, a real estate development company headquartered in Carlsbad, holds a lease for 2,350 acres of the land, according to the company’s website. The development firm previously proposed building 1,500 homes in Wild Cherry Canyon.
In a Jan. 10 email, real estate investor Denis Sullivan stated, “think we can get a deal with PG&E to get the fee.”
The type of title the PG&E subsidiary holds is a fee title, which is commonly known as a fee.
Sullivan sent the email to Tom Blessent, a project planner who works with HomeFed and SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill. Sullivan went on to say in the email that they could fit 15,000 homes on the site, which is one and a half times the size of Grover Beach.
“I can push with the board of supervisors that are in our favor at the moment to progress a deal to create a new community on the ranch,” Sullivan stated.
The discovery of the email drew an angry reaction from the Sierra Club and the group Friends of Wild Cherry Canyon, which issued a joint press release on the matter.
“Placing a new city on these pristine lands would be an environmental tragedy of the first order,” Kara Woodruff, a representative of Friends of Wild Cherry Canyon, said in a statement. “This is an ecologically and culturally rich and remote property, accessible only by an impacted, two-lane road that runs through the community of Avila Beach and dead ends at the Diablo Canyon plant and its nuclear waste storage facility. From an ecological, safety, traffic, fire and regional quality-of-life perspective, it’s hard to contemplate a worse place for a development of this size and nature. HomeFed’s profit motive is clear, any concern for the needs of the community is not.”
The two environmental groups also allege that the email suggests PG&E has been engaging in discussions with Sullivan on a deal for the Wild Cherry Canyon land, violating the terms of its Diablo Canyon closure agreement set by the California Public Utilities Commission. The agreement requires public input and regulatory review prior to PG&E taking action on the use of land surrounding Diablo Canyon.
PG&E has responded by denying that is in talks with Sullivan or HomeFed over the development of Wild Cherry Canyon.