Decision issued against Grapevine development – a near billion-a-year extra travel miles avoided

Separating – and situated between – Los Angeles and Bakersfield are the Tehachapi Mountains. Proposed for the region between was an 8,000-acre development known as Grapevine. The development, to have been sited completely within Kern County borders but very near to the Kern County-Los Angeles County Line, would have enabled what is referred to as “leap-frog-style” development to move forward in the mountainous region.

All had seemingly been moving smoothly ahead, that is, until a lawsuit was filed against said proposal.

Judge Kenneth Twisselman II found Kern County’s environmental review to be insufficient “because it failed to disclose the impacts of the project on air quality and public health in the event that the county’s traffic projections were incorrect,” the Center for Biological Diversity (Center) announced in its July 31, 2018 “Judge Rules Against Tejon Ranch Company’s Damaging Grapevine Development: Court Says Kern County Project Did Not Consider Air Pollution, Health Impactspress release.

Added the Center in the release: “‘This ruling makes clear that the county didn’t fully inform the public about the probable environmental impacts of adding tens of thousands of cars to California’s traffic-clogged freeways,’ said J.P. Rose, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘Californians deserve real solutions to the housing shortage – not far-flung mega-developments many miles from existing cities and job centers.’”

Also at issue

The main traffic accessway in and out of the proposed development site was to be Interstate 5, California’s primary north-south highway, had the proposed development been approved. By adding substantially greater numbers of vehicles to the already heavily traveled thoroughfare this no doubt would have had real and considerable negative environmental and health and habitat impacts.

A pristine-looking Tehachapi Ridge Route Bypass in 1943. (View north towards the town of Grapevine)

“Proposed by the hedge fund-backed developer Tejon Ranch Company, the Grapevine development would add approximately about 1 billion additional miles of vehicle travel each year onto California roads,” the Center in the release maintains.

“Grapevine would destroy habitat for 36 rare plants and animals – including the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard and threatened San Joaquin antelope squirrel – while blocking the last best wildlife corridor between the San Joaquin Valley, Tehachapi Mountains and Coastal Range.”

The Grapevine development would consume on a per-year basis, 2.6 billion gallons of Kern River water, better than half the water that flows down the river during dry years, added the Center in the release.

“‘Climate change is expected to decrease the Sierra Nevada snowpack that feeds the Kern River,’ said Adam Keats, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. ‘Kern County should not be approving new desert cities when farmers and wildlife already do not have enough water,’” as cited in the release by the Center for Biological Diversity.

A separate hearing has been set for Feb. 15, 2019 for Judge Kenneth Twisselman II “to address the scope of the judgment against the county.”

The lawsuit brought jointly by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety was initially filed in January 2017.

Meanwhile, “Tejon is separately seeking approvals from Los Angeles County for another city-sized development called Centennial. Like Grapevine, Centennial’s remote location would require most residents to endure multi-hour commutes to Bakersfield or Los Angeles,” the Center added.

For more information on this, see: “Judge Rules Against Tejon Ranch Company’s Damaging Grapevine Development: Court Says Kern County Project Did Not Consider Air Pollution, Health Impacts” press release here.

Image: California Department of Transportation

This post was last revised on Dec. 18, 2020 @ 6:58 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Published by Alan Kandel