The development company behind the 78-home Valencia Hills project is facing nearly $850,000 in fines for letting water pollution end up in Chollas Creek, according to a complaint filed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board Monday, October 19.
The 18-acre site was referred to the water board after the City of Lemon Grove repeatedly issued stop-work orders, administrative citations, and orders to correct problems that the developer apparently ignored, according to water-board spokesperson Chiara Clemente.
The orders required the developers to implement routine practices to reduce the sediment moving off the construction site. According to the complaint, the City of Lemon Grove made seven inspection visits before it sought the additional muscle the state board wields.
"Repeat noncompliance tells us they didn't take the city or our inspectors very seriously," Clemente said. "These requirements are not new. It's unfortunate that it's taking a large monetary penalty to motivate them to do basic measures that the industry considers routine."
The complaint alleges 13 violations by builders between December 2014 and April 2015. The builders allegedly stored chemicals improperly, didn't take steps to control concrete waste, and didn't try to control sediment that would end up in the Encanto Channel and from there, in Chollas Creek, according to the complaint.
Houses in the project, located north of Imperial Avenue and east of 69th Street, start in the low $400,000, according to the company website Valencia-Hills.com. The website includes some pictures of graded hillsides — which is where some of the violations occurred.
New Pointe Communities president Scot Sandstrom, whose company specializes in urban-infill projects — including some in Imperial Beach, Poway, and Encinitas in the past two years — returned a call for comment at his Rancho Bernardo office.
"We are evaluating the state's claims and we don't have any comment at this time," Sandstrom said. Sandstrom is past president of the San Diego area Building Industry Association, according to his LinkedIn profile. A hearing on the complaint is set for Dec. 16th.