Chico Planning Commission votes on controversial housing development


The Steven G. Harrison Memorial Arch stretches over the entrance to the bike path bordering the east side of the preserve. The arch was donated to the city of Chico by Linda L. Zorn in 2010. Photo credit: Dan Christian

The Chico Planning Commission voted, Friday, in favor of developing the StoneGate subdivision located east of Bruce Road, between East 20th Street and The Skyway. Despite public concerns regarding the environmental impacts of the development plan, the proposal will now go before the city council.

Planning Commissioners Lupita Arim-Law and John Howlett voted against the development, while Commissioner Evan Tuchinsky recused himself.

John Howlett
Chico Housing Commissioner John Howlett voted against new development in the area of the endangered Butte County Meadowfoam. Photo credit: Dan Christian

The site chosen for housing development is one of the few remaining habitats for Limnanthes floccosa, also known as Butte County Meadowfoam. Found only in California, and almost exclusively in Butte County, the rare herb is listed as an endangered species by the State of California and the federal government.

Locals also took issue with the project’s Environmental Impact Report; many thought the report was insufficient and that construction would negatively impact the on-site preserve. There were also concerns that the mitigation recovery measures for the project would not significantly reduce damage to the preserve. Commisioner Howlett also pointed out that there are no recorded cases of successfully relocating topsoil containing Butte County Meadowfoam.

Butte County meadowfoam preserve
The sun sets over the preserve located on the southeast corner of 20th street and Bruce Road. These vernal pools provide one of the few remaining habitats suitable for the endangered meadowfoam. Photo credit: Dan Christian

Some speakers claimed that the Draft Environmental Impact Report never disclosed that the site was designated a “core habitat” by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service. The report also didn’t specify which soil would be used for the Meadowfoam recovery according to Howlett.

No representatives from California Department of Fish and Wildlife attended the vote. The project will be discussed at an upcoming city council meeting, but a specific date hasn’t been decided upon.

Daniel Christian can be reached at [email protected] or @DanoftheOrion on Twitter.