Fate of the Harmony project

The Harmony housing project proposed in East Highland north of Mentone would have added 3,600 homes in a remote area. Lawsuits killed it in July 2018.

On Oct. 5, the Orange County Board of Supervisors accepted a bid from the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District for the purchase of 1,657 acres of property in the Santa Ana River Wash, formerly designated for the Harmony housing development, for $31.8 million.

Orange County’s acceptance of the bid was reported to the SBVMWD Board of Directors during its Oct. 5 meeting.

The land is owned by Orange County Flood Control and was originally purchased for use in the construction of Seven Oaks Dam.

“Due to the district’s need for water infrastructure and mitigation land in this area staff was authorized by the board to participate in the public sale process conducted by Orange County and on Sept. 8 the district submitted the highest responsive bid,” said Wen Huang, SBVMWD deputy general manager.

The district’s offer was considered and approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 5, Huang reported to the SBMVWD.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors, acting on behalf of Orange County Flood Control, received two other bids for the property. Redlands Parks Conservancy and Shopoff Advisors each bid $25 million. Richland Real Estate Fund submitted in incomplete bid package for $16 million.

“There’s many moving pieces relating to the sale of this property,” said Heather Dyer, SBVMWD general manager. “It will now go to Riverside County Flood, San Bernardino County Flood and the Corps of Engineers for review and approval, mainly because they were all three involved in the acquisition of the property for the construction of Seven Oaks Dam.”

Orange County began the process of selling the land, which sits in the city of Highland on the east end of Greenspot Road, after its attempt to develop the 3,600-home Harmony project failed due to two lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Greenspot Residents Association.

The lawsuits lead to a San Bernardino County Superior Court ruling to invalidate the project’s environmental impact report in July 2018.