Rancho Los Robles

The proposed Rancho Los Robles Subdivision along Sill Road in Las Lomas would bring 50 single family homes and two duplexes to the area.

In November, the California Coastal Commission narrowly approved the Rancho Los Robles subdivision in Las Lomas, not far from Elkhorn Slough.

Las Lomas residents who lobbied heavily for the subdivision were happy, expecting that they will one day get a promised park and other community amenities from the developer, Heritage Western Communities.

Environmentalists were baffled, however, calling the commissioners' vote "strange" and "terrible."

Coastal Commission staff argued at a Nov. 8 meeting that the watershed under the proposed 54-unit development is severely overdrafted. 

They reminded commissioners that they had already denied three smaller developments in the same region in the past year, all because there is not enough water.

Nevertheless, seven of the 12 commissioners voted in favor of the project.

Now Landwatch and Friends, Artists and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough (FANS) are calling foul.

The two groups filed a lawsuit Dec. 18 to overturn the approval, calling it a direct violation of Monterey County's Local Coastal Plan.

"It's unfathomable that the Coastal Commission would approve Rancho Los Robles," Landwatch Executive Director Michael DeLapa said in a statement. "Elkhorn Slough is an environmentally sensitive habitat of statewide significance for which the Coastal Act requires its protection."

They are suing the Coastal Commission, Monterey County, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and the project developer. 

A previous Board of Supervisors approved the project nearly 10 years ago, but it remained stalled for years until recently.

The lawsuit claims the vote in favor of the project violates the California Coastal Act, the California Environmental Quality Act and state zoning and planning laws.

It asks a court to prevent any development from happening for the time being, and ultimately to set aside approvals by the commission and the board of supervisors.

Attorneys for Monterey County, the Coastal Commission and the developer could not be reached for comment.

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