LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a 19,333-home Tejon Ranch development in the Antelope Valley, overruling environmental critics who say it will damage sensitive habitats and add to the region’s burden of commuter traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.
The vote was 4-1 with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl dissenting.
The board had tentatively approved the project in December subject to a local jobs contract and review of fire mitigation strategies. It signed off on a development agreement for the project without comment Tuesday.
Kuehl said in December the project was saddled with too many concerns and expressed skepticism about the developer’s promises about jobs and the availability of affordable housing.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger had countered that the massive project would help meet a critical demand for housing in the Antelope Valley. Tejon Ranch Co. has agreed to 18% affordable housing and agreed in principle to create supportive housing for the homeless within the planned community.
Centennial project is sited on roughly 12,300 acres of a more than 270,000-acre expanse of land owned by the Tejon Ranch Co. The land is considered the largest contiguous piece of private property in California held by a single owner.
The project will include not only housing, but also 10 million square feet of commercial space, schools, fire stations, a police station and a library, to be built in phases over 20 years. Tejon Ranch has committed to build fire and police stations and other public infrastructure at no cost to county taxpayers to create what its describes as a self-sustaining community.
Nearly half of the development site’s acreage will be preserved as open space. That’s in addition to a 2008 agreement struck between Tejon Ranch Co. and a coalition of environmentalists — including the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society and Sierra Club — under which the developer agreed to permanently conserve 90 percent of its land in exchange for the right to develop the balance. That land includes the highest quality habitat areas on the ranch, according to the company.
At December’s board hearing, a procession of opponents spoke out about environmental concerns. Some called the idea of a master-planned community of such magnitude a relic from the past — despite the housing shortage in the county.
A few voices echoed those concerns Tuesday.
“Centennial is the very definition of controversial, having been opposed by thousands of your own constituents, state agencies, the L.A. Times and numerous environmental and environmental justice groups,” said J.P. Rose, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Rose ticked off several reasons to oppose the project, including its location in a fire-prone wilderness, the destruction of wildlife connectivity for mountain lions in particular, and the traffic and air pollution generated by an estimated 75,000 new daily vehicle trips.
In order to mitigate concerns over air pollution, the project includes measures to promote electric vehicles and complies with per-capita greenhouse gas emissions for the state’s 2030 and 2050 targets.
Though the site is located in a severe fire hazard zone with no natural water supply, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby has said he is comfortable with the site’s fire safety planning.
The development is projected to create more than 20,000 permanent jobs, roughly 25,000 construction jobs and a $31 million annual public revenue surplus for the county.