“A bird does not sing because it has an answer.

It sings because it has a song,”

Maya Angelou

I love birds. And, the tiny endangered songbird Least Bell’s vireo’ and its connection to the historic San Luis River, the location for North River Farms proposed project, is a story that needs to be told.  This tiny songbird delayed the construction of a multi-million dollar bridge in Bonsall, where I went to elementary from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

In the 1980’s, the Bonsall Bridge reconstruction was planned.  Once it began, it met with 2 barriers: 1. protests to the destruction of the historic bridge, being only 1 of 2 of its kind within the 5-county area, and 2. an endangered songbird named Least Bell’s vireo.

This tiny gray bird requires a riparian zone for survival and protection and from extinction. Before learning about this, I’d never heard of a riparian zone. Turns out it’s extremely important and directly related to the San Luis Rey river valley, which is a riparian zone.  Riparian areas are lands that occur along watercourses, bodies and ways and have many benefits.

These benefits include:

  • helping to control  pollution
  • helping to supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals and
  • helping to serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats for a variety of wildlife.
  • helping to stabilize stream banks
  • helping to reduce floodwater velocity, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks.
  • helping to maintain the base flow in drier climates as streams lose water that can help build up the water table deep beneath the stream.

The San Luis Rey River has been designated as critical habitat for many animal and plant species: the endangered Least Bell’s vireo, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the endangered southwestern arroyo toad and the threatened California gnatcatcher.  Coastal sage scrub and live oak woodland habitat support numerous species. Golden eagles soar.

Turns out, Bell’s home would have been destroyed by the destruction of the bridge because its habitat would have been destroyed by this encroachment.  This story ends with the original bridge maintained as a horse and human walkway and habitat consciously created to protect this tiny songbird from extinction. Once this protection was in place, the new bridge was built.

The proposed North River Farms project by Integral Communities, if built, would radically encroach upon the San Luis Rey river riparian zone.  Preserving this land as agricultural matters. Its habitat is fragile and resources invaluable. The Native Americans know this better than anyone.

This land also has a sacred history – land along the historic San Luis Rey river valley once occupied by the Native American Luiseno Tribe,  named after the San Luis Rey Mission’s founder, Fermin Fransigno de Lasuen.  The Luiseno Tribe’s original name was Payomkawichum. Their land and water were occupied, they along with their ways and customs were colonized and destroyed. They were major contributors to developing the San Luis Rey Mission, one of the most historic missions in existence and the mission along this river. This historic and rich land is a treasure. And the history of what happened them matters as well.

Once this land is paved over and developed according to what the North River Farm proposed project would do in a development designated as classic sprawl, it’s gone – forever… along with its habitat. “People’s most common disturbance to riparian areas involves clearing vegetation and converting the area to other uses such as cropland and urban land.”

There is currently a #LetOceansideVote petition/referendum drive in the city, gathering signatures to protect current agricultural land from sprawl. Signing this supports formally requesting the city council reconsider/repeal their recent approval that allows amending the zoning map designation from agricultural to residential development for the controversial North River Farm 585 housing development proposed project for along the San Luis Rey River bed. The council could repeal their decision, or, it could go to a vote of the citizens.

Your signature matters. Please consider signing this petition to protect this land as well as hold the city council members who voted to approve this project accountable for a decision that went against staff recommending this development NOT be approved 3 times. #LetOceansideVote.

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