County supervisors, who approved the first phase of Newhall Land Development Inc.’s Newhall Ranch housing project two weeks ago, approved the Mission Valley phase of the same project Tuesday despite continued opposition.
For the second time this month, some Santa Clarita Valley residents concerned about environmental effects of 20,000 new homes to be built between Interstate 5 and the Ventura County line appealed to Los Angeles County supervisors to stop the housing project.
Their appeal was rejected, however, and the project was approved.
Other local residents who also made the 30-mile trip south to the hearing at the county Hall of Administration called for supervisors to approve the project without delay.
“This is an environmentally friendly project that will protect more than 75 percent of the length of the Santa Clara River that runs through Mission Village by leaving it completely in a natural state – no concrete channels or artificial banks,” said Dave Bossert, a West Side resident.
“I respectfully urge you to just move forward with this project as soon as you can without hesitation.”
Mission Village would see 621 lots developed on 1,261 acres of land west of Interstate 5 and south of Highway 126.
It would include 351 single-family homes and more than 3,700 condominiums contained on 44 lots.
Local environmentalist Lynne Plambeck asked the board: “There (are) significant impacts to air quality but not to global warming; how can that be?
“You have several federally listed endangered species that will be impacted by this project, but there’s no significant impact (on) biology. How can that be?
“This is absurd,” she said. “Someone has to start looking at these issues.”
When Plambeck left the podium, Jonas Peterson, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation, took her place urging the board to move ahead with Mission Village, citing “much needed” job creation.
“We are in favor of the Mission Village project,” he said. “We think it is aligned with our economic development plans, aligned with our growth. We support the project and we encourage you to oppose the appeal.”
On Oct. 4, supervisors approved zoning changes for Landmark Village, first phase of the Newhall Ranch project.
The proposed changes mean the creation of 422 lots on about 295 acres. The lots would mean 270 single-family homes, 744 condominiums and 430 apartments, along with 16 commercial lots. It also calls for 119 lots for open space and at least one fire station, park and school.
Discussion on Mission Village opened Tuesday with a response from county planners addressing six key environmental points raised in the appeal filed by environmentalists.
Sam Dea, representing the Special Projects Section of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, told the board there was nothing in the six issues of appeal that the county had not already addressed.
“The appeal does not raise any substantial issues that have not been considered by the Regional Planning Commission or analyzed and responded to in the EIR done for Mission Village,” Dea said.
Appeals revolved around water quality, preservation of an endangered plant’s environment and inadequate compensation for compromises in air quality.
“I oppose this project and hope you kill it outright,” said Santa Clarita Valley resident Dave Lutness.
He argued contamination apparently spreading under ground from the Whittaker-Bermite former munitions plant supported a “no” vote on the project.
Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, assured supervisors the project will not be adversely affected by perchlorate contamination as detected in the groundwater of some wells in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“As for the Mission Village water supply, we do not see any impact because the project relies on other groundwater sources from wells located in non-perchlorate-impacted portions of the groundwater basin,” he said, adding those wells are four miles from the main source of perchlorate contamination on the Whittaker-Bermite property.
At least one person downstream of the future Newhall Ranch development told the board she is not convinced the project should move ahead.
“Any economic gain created by any and all phases of the Newhall Ranch project will be far outweighed by the cost to taxpayers,” she said.
Several opposing the project told supervisors they needed more time to review the county’s official response to their concerns, since it was delivered less than four days previously.
“Of concern is the 2,000-page document that was just released on Friday,” said Kathleen Squires of the Sierra Club. “We have not had time to review and we ask that we are given this time to review it.”
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On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tentatively approved the first phase of the Newhall Ranch project, the phase that is probably the most environmentally damaging.
Travelers on Highway 126 will no longer be able to see the river once the new strip malls are built. Housing will replace prime agricultural land, river habitat and flood plain in this now-former significant ecological area.
Los Angeles County’s last free-flowing river will be devastated by all the impacts that go along with commuter-oriented urban sprawl.
Though residents traveling from Santa Clarita to downtown Los Angeles for the hearing spent nearly two hours fighting traffic, and many had to take a day off of work, they were afforded only one minute to speak.
That’s one minute to talk about the many threatened and endangered species that will most likely be lost to this project. One minute to talk about our Santa Clarita ozone levels that are now classified by the EPA as “extremely hazardous” and how this commuter-oriented project will add to that pollution. One minute to talk about our children’s increased levels of asthma.
One minute to talk about how storm water will affect the water quality of the river and our water supply.
One minute for the newly discovered contamination in the now closed Valencia drinking-water well. One minute to object to the Newhall Land Development Inc.’s use of the Valencia treatment plant, and explain how it will add to the chloride levels in the river, increasing sewer costs for local residents.
One minute to talk about Newhall Land’s bankruptcy and how financial instability might affect its capacity to pay the high costs of all the infrastructure expansion needed for this project.
No one even had time to bring up the question of why all these units were being approved when entitlements for some 10,000 fully approved but unbuilt units already exist in Santa Clarita.
Why should strip malls be built on a former scenic highway when commercial land in Santa Clarita already has a high vacancy rate?
Needless to say, a one-minute time limit was completely inadequate for such important issues.
With supervisors talking on their phones, walking around and working on their computers, one has to wonder how much of a speaker’s one-minute comment was really even heard.
In spite of last week’s vote to delay the meeting by a week, some 25 people still attended the hearing to speak against the project. So, although the message was garbled and cut into tiny sound bites, concern for the Santa Clara River, our air and water quality, as well as added traffic, seemed to come through.
Two supervisors left the room, apparently refusing to vote on the project. Only supervisors Michael D. Antonovich, Gloria Molina and Don Knabe were left to cast a vote, but that was enough to tentatively move this project forward.
The vote was “tentative” because, according to The Signal, the project will return to the board in the future after attorneys develop specific language to address the many issues brought to the board in correspondence and in the comments at the hearing.
This was not the final vote, but newspaper headlines read as though the project could begin grading tomorrow. Was this an effort to discourage any continued opposition?
The question now is, with the housing downturn and our current poor economy, just exactly who is that will be buying all these houses in a project that will do so much damage to our regional environment?
Will hedge-fund investors really pay to build housing that no one can afford to buy? Or will this house of cards, paper profits and public taxpayer subsidies collapse before we lose the last free-flowing river in Los Angeles County?
David Lutness is a Valencia resident.
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County supervisors heard testimony for a zone change on the first phase of Newhall Land Development Inc.’s proposed Newhall Ranch on Tuesday and indicated they would likely approve it.
The proposed zoning changes would usher in the creation of 422 lots on about 295 acres. The lots would mean 270 single-family homes, 744 condominiums and 430 apartments, along with 16 commercial lots.
The plan for Landmark Village, Phase 1 of Newhall Ranch, also calls for 119 lots for open space and at least one fire station, park and school.
Newhall Ranch is a master-planned community from the same firm that planned and developed Valencia.
After its projected 25- to 30-year construction period, it would be home to more than 20,000 residences west of Interstate 5 and south of Highway 126.
The public hearing on the Landmark Village zone change drew criticism from some environmental groups, while others supported it as a well-planned development that can create jobs and has a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that exceeds county standards.
“We really have to step back and look at what kind of development this is,” said Jack Eidt, an urban planner with the Los Angeles-based Wild Heritage Planners.
“You can have a couple of bus stops and a future light rail, but people will be getting into their cars … heading for downtown L.A. to work and to live,” he said. “They’ll be on the (Highway) 126 and on the (Interstate) 5.”
Newhall Land’s low-impact development standards went beyond anything required by the county, said Dennis Hunter of the county Public Works Department.”
The project will not significantly impact water quality,” he told supervisors.
Other county officials said Landmark Village would create 3,700 permanent jobs and 6,300 temporary construction jobs.
County Regional Planning staff were set to prepare Tuesday’s hearing findings and present them to supervisors by the end of the year.
Supervisors also asked County Counsel to prepare documents and return them to the board for approval.
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