California Supreme Court to Review Opinion in Newhall Ranch Dispute

The California Supreme Court has agreed to review a petition filed by environmental and Native American groups opposed to a recent state appellate court opinion in the decades-long dispute over plans to build a community of 60,000 residents about 35 miles north of Los Angeles.

“We’re delighted that the Supreme Court has agreed to consider our arguments,” John Buse, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview Friday. “They involve issues essential to the state’s environmental review process and the privileged role of the public.”

The opinion by the three-judge panel of the California 2nd District Court of Appeal exempts developers from certain legal protections provided the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback fish in order to accommodate construction of the 2,587-acre Newhall Ranch project along the wild Santa Clara River.

The petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Santa Clara River, Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper and the California Native Plant Society argues that the opinion will also apply to all other fully protected species, including the California condor.

The petition also argues that other aspects of the opinion discourage participation in land-use issues by requiring that public comments be submitted early in the environmental review process rather than up to the time of project approval.

“The appellate court panel issued a thorough decision and we’re confident that the Supreme Court will uphold it,” said Marlee Lauffler, spokesperson for Newhall Land and Farming Co., which plans to build the project in phases over 20 to 30 years, ultimately creating a new city of 19,812 residential units and about 5 1/2 million square feet of commercial space.

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