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Newland proposes ‘carbon neutral’ community

An artist’s conception of the town center for 2,135 home proposed Newland Sierra project.

San Diego-based Newland Communities last week announced plans to create what it is billing as  “San Diego County’s first carbon neutral community.”

The proposed community, known as Newland Sierra, would be just off I-15 and Deer Springs Road in the Twin Oaks Valley on the border with San Marcos.

Newland Sierra project features  2,135 homes built across seven distinct neighborhoods
1,209 acres of permanently preserved open space plus an additional 210 acres of off-site open space bringing the total open space set-aside to 72% of the property
19 miles of multi-use trails, bike paths and pathways
36 acres of community and neighborhood parks
Community gardens to promote healthy lifestyles and foster community stewardship. Community-serving retail center of 81,000 square feet to include a grocery store and other much-needed retail services
A K-8 school site.

Newland says it will implement an array of green measures to ensure that net emissions produced by Sierra are zero.

“Environmental stewardship is one of our company’s highest priorities,” said Rita Brandin, senior vice president and development director at Newland. “Now we’re taking this commitment to new heights by creating a community that will have a net zero emissions footprint. We believe that Sierra will become the new green standard for sustainable communities in San Diego County.”

The efforts toward sustainability include putting solar panels atop every home, charging stations for electric vehicles in every garage, providing a community-sponsored shuttle with service throughout the community and to the Escondido Transit Center, and creating an extensive electric bike-sharing program across the entire community. More than 1,200 acres – 61% of the entire property – will be preserved and managed as permanent open space, plus an additional 210 acres of off- site open space will bring the project’s permanent open space to a total of 72%.

Newland will require homebuilders to install solar voltaic systems (solar panels) atop each of the community’s 2,135 homes across seven distinct neighborhoods. Solar will also be used to power streetlights, as well as every community facility, including recreation centers.

Newland will require homebuilders to include electric vehicle charging stations in every garage. They will also be installed at community facilities and in the Town Center.

Newland will develop an electric bike-sharing program across the entire community. The program will include eight bike kiosks with 10-20 electric bikes each. This, says Newland, will make “it the first larger- scale community in San Diego County to commit to a significant electric bike share program.”

A community-sponsored shuttle will be available to transport residents to and from the Escondido Transit Center where they can connect with the regional transportation system.

“This is an extremely ambitious undertaking and I applaud Newland for leading the way,” said Rorie Johnston, CEO and resident of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. “Not only will this reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment, it will go a long way towards addressing our county’s housing shortage to support our growing economy and keep our region prosperous.”

The property is currently zoned for 99 homes, as well as about 2 million square feet of office and commercial space, which is the equivalent of nearly two Westfield North County shopping malls. However, given the region’s housing crisis, Newland believes the property is better positioned as a residential community to provide a diverse range of housing for first-time home-buyers to empty-nesters.

Aside from the seven residential neighborhoods, Newland is proposing 81,000 square feet of community and retail services, which would include a grocery store, a pharmacy, a dry-cleaner and other desired amenities.

The announcement by Newland coincided with the County of San Diego’s release of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report. The 60-day public review period will give San Diego County residents an opportunity to provide their input directly to the County’s Planning Department. For more information. www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/pds/ceqa/SP-15- 001/NSDEIR.html

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