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Safari Highlands Ranch development planned for Escondido

Solana Beach-based Concordia Homes continues to process plans for Safari Highlands Ranch, a 550-home development on a 1,098-acre site north in Escondido of San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The development along the southwest side of Rockwood Road next to Eagle Crest Golf Course will feature lots ranging from 7,663 square feet to as large as 4 acres.

As much as 70 percent of the property would be left in permanent open space, and the units would be clustered to minimize environmental impact.

The clustering is needed because of existing low-density zoning. The challenge for the developer was to develop a luxury estate project in a zone with an overall density of one residence per 2 acres.

Seven phases of development have been proposed, but the timetable for each release hasn’t been determined.

“One of our large neighborhoods would consist of semicustom homes on 1-acre lots,” said Jeb Hall, Concordia senior vice president. “The development will be tucked back into its buildable area.”

Hall said the development will be built with drought conditions in mind: Drought-tolerant plants will be used for landscaping, recycled water from sinks and showers will provide outdoor irrigation and solar panels will be placed on rooftops.

“This is going to be a very sustainable development,” Hall said.

Safari Highlands Ranch will have a town center, or “village core,” with a community park, children’s play area, outdoor fireplace, barbecue areas, hiking and pedestrian trail with a viewpoint, and an event lawn for community gatherings.

“Residents can engage in events such as farmers markets, festivals, concerts, and even movie nights at the event lawn,” Concordia wrote. “With its community core, extensive trail systems and integrated parks, the project will enhance the outdoor experience, pedestrian connectivity and a sense of community.”

A private facility will include a recreation building, swimming and wading pools, and tennis courts. Additional private neighborhood parks, trails and viewpoints will be provided.

Safari Highlands Ranch will provide about 765.4 acres of recreational and open space in and around the developed portion. Trailheads and walks will also wind throughout the Multiple Species Conservation Plan area.

The development would be served by a fire station, and an emergency access road would be built for access during a wildfire or other emergency.

“Currently, it is a longer than 15-minute response to the closest residents,” Hall said.

The project will contribute improvements to Eagle Crest Golf Course, which will remain open to the public. Work there will include a new clubhouse, improvements to fairways and cart paths, and monuments.

Concordia has been coordinating with Local Agency Formation Commission representatives about requirements for a sphere of influence update — a move that must happen before the relatively low-density property may be annexed to the city of Escondido.

Hall said his firm also needs to process a tentative map for the development, which is pending environmental review. A consultant to prepare the draft environmental impact report is expected to be hired this month.

Even before the work is started, Hall said Concordia has held many public meetings to introduce the project to the community. He said he has seen little opposition.

This isn’t the first time the property was considered for such a development. In the middle of the last decade, a proposed project on this land was known as Valley View Estates, before plans derailed during the Great Recession.

The earlier project called for 403 residential units, a 250-room resort hotel and an 18-hole golf course in addition to Eagle Crest Golf Course.

Other proposed amenities included tennis courts, and an equestrian center.

The property was previously owned by a joint venture of Exeter 13162 De LLC and the JT Osborne Family Trust.

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Carlsbad, CA 92008