Development of an ultra-luxury resort in Northern California has been halted due to wildfire risk


A judge on Tuesday halted development of a huge, ultra-luxury resort in Northern California because developers failed to consider what would happen if a wildfire erupted and thousands of guests had to escape the raging flames.

The judge issued the Jan. 4 decision in response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and found that the environmental impact report for the 25-square-mile development in Lake County’s Guenoc Valley did not take take into account the impacts of forest fires and evacuation safety.

“If a wildfire occurs, residents of the project will be required to evacuate,” the decision states. “These people will likely be competing with nearby residents for safe evacuation routes. Additional people competing for the same limited routes can cause congestion and evacuation delays, leading to increased fire-related deaths in Forest.”

The decision overturns the approval of the county board of supervisors who saw the development as an economic opportunity for the region.

“If the end result of this decision is that the project does not move forward, it will be a huge loss,” South Lake County Supervisor Moke Simon told the Press Democrat on Thursday.

Several wildfires have ravaged Lake County in recent years. Driven by strong winds, the 2015 Valley Fire ravaged more than 76,000 acres, destroyed nearly 2,000 structures and killed four people. More recently, the 2020 LNU Complex Fire burned over 360,000 acres and tore through the Guenoc Valley.

The center said in its lawsuit that the project’s environmental review violated California’s Environmental Quality Act. The California attorney general’s office joined the lawsuit in 2021, citing wildfires and other environmental concerns.

“Recent wildfire history has taught us that we need to prepare for the next disaster,” Peter Broderick, an attorney for the center, wrote in a statement. “Part of that preparation is making wise land use decisions and only approving developments that adequately address, not aggravate, wildfire risks. Building in California’s fire-prone wilderness is dangerous for people and terrible for our endangered wildlife.


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