Village News Correspondent
The County of San Diego has vacated sewer and drainage easements in Pala Mesa.
A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote Jan. 25 adopted the resolution to vacate the easements. The easements had affected the North County Fire Protection District’s Station 4, and the fire district now has more flexibility with the property.
“That’s great news,” said NCFPD Fire Chief Keith McReynolds.
Station 4 is on the south side of Pala Mesa Drive at the intersection with Old Highway 395. In August 1947, slope, drainage, and maintenance rights for Old Highway 395 were granted to the State of California. The slope, drainage, and maintenance rights for Pala Mesa Drive were granted to the County of San Diego in August 1969 and May 1970. In 1998, an old alignment of Pala Mesa Drive was vacated although the sewer and drainage easements were reserved.
The vacated easement area comprises approximately 0.35 acres. County staff determined that the sewer and drainage facility easements could be considered excess because there are no sewer or storm drainage facilities within the utility easement reservation areas and there is no future need for those easements.
The slope, drainage, and maintenance easement rights granted beyond the existing right-of-way for Pala Mesa Drive and Old Highway 395 have not been used for their intended purpose for more than 50 years and were granted based on the old alignment of Pala Mesa Drive near Old Highway 395.
After development and improvement plans realigned Pala Mesa Drive, the relocated intersection of Pala Mesa Drive and Old Highway 395 precludes the need for the easements or construction of roadway facilities within the area of the vacation. The county’s Department of Public Works determined that the easements were not needed for the existing roadway or for future widening of the roadway.
The existing nearby road system will continue to provide adequate access for the area and will not preclude future development. The vacation will not affect any public utility facilities since there are none within the area of the vacated easements, and the easement area is not authorized for non-motorized transportation uses so it would not be useful for a non-motorized trail.
The August 2022 meeting of the Fallbrook Community Planning Group included a 12-0 vote, with one member absent and two members recusing themselves, to recommend the vacation of the easements.
The vacation removes the encumbrances for the NCFPD property. “We’re working on the current Station 4 site,” McReynolds said. “We’re moving forward on the current site with some civil engineering.”
The Jan. 25 Board of Supervisors action found that the easement vacation itself was categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review. If any structures are built on the property, the appropriate CEQA documentation must be prepared and approved.
In June 2022, the Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of an 18.49-acre property near the intersection of State Route 76 and Interstate 15 which had been owned by the California Department of Transportation. The property will be developed as a public safety facility.
The county’s Capital Improvement Needs Assessment estimates that the Sheriff's station would have approximately 25,000 square feet of space, so the Sheriff’s Department will not need the entire 18.49 acres. The North County Fire Protection District has expressed a desire to share that land and have its new Station 4 building on that property, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is reviewing the possibility of including a CalFire station on the parcel, and the Rainbow Municipal Water District may use some of the land for the new district headquarters.
If the fire district utilizes the county site the property where Station 4 is currently located will be declared surplus and sold, and the removal of the easement encumbrance increases the value of the land. Even if Station 4 remains on the current site, the NCFPD long-term plan calls for replacing the portable buildings with more modern facilities.
“Either way, it clears the property up to have those easements lifted,” McReynolds said. “It’s just clearing the property up and making it more buildable in the future.”