Approved housing project in habitat-sensitive, L.A. County wilderness area a mystery

Some things defy logic. They’re inexplicable!

How a 19,000+ home housing project to be built on 42 of 420 square miles in what is considered a wilderness region in the Tehachapi Mountains along the Interstate 5 corridor some 65 miles from downtown Los Angeles that was granted approval by 4 of 5 L.A. County Supervisors, is dumbfounding.

My reaction was indeed similar regarding a similar type of development proposed for a rural parcel of land in a foothill area in eastern Fresno County called Friant Ranch and that was four-and-a-half years ago on Jun. 9, 2014.

Whereas Friant Ranch, a project initially given environmental approval to move forward, a clearance later challenged in court, so far this is not the case regarding the Centennial Housing Project (Centennial), a development to be sited at the crest of the Tehachapi Mountains along I-5.

The Center for Biological Diversity (Center) in a Dec. 11, 2018 press release submitted that “[i]n approving Centennial the board disregarded the opposition of thousands of county residents, dozens of environmental and community organizations, state agencies, experts in fire safety and public health and the L.A. Times editorial board.”

San Joaquin kit fox

“‘Supervisors just approved one of the most destructive sprawl projects in county history,’ said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘Centennial will pave over thousands of acres of irreplaceable wildlands, put residents at extreme wildfire risk, and clog our already congested freeways. Our county needs housing near existing job centers, not isolated developments in remote wildlands.’”

Such a decision leaves me wondering what part of the above Rose observation those members of the L.A. County supervisorial board who voted in favor of this project, just didn’t get.

“‘Supervisors just showed they’re not serious about fostering a sustainable and livable future for county residents,’ said Rose. ‘The consequences of their vote will be more sprawl, soul-crushing traffic jams and habitat destruction. Sprawl like this creates a truly ugly legacy for the next generation of Californians.’”

Not to mention doubtless worsening air quality tied directly to that.

“The Center and allies repeatedly raised these concerns in comment letters, public hearings and meetings with the county. Today’s vote leaves the public with approximately 30 days to file litigation challenging the county’s environmental review of the project,” the Center went on to explain in the release.

It was just last month and in late summer, in fact, that I wrote about a similar project proposed nearby in Kern County. That project, to be known as Grapevine, got rejected. (See: “Proposed new leapfrog-style development project in San Diego County challenged” and “Decision issued against Grapevine development – a near billion-a-year extra travel miles avoided“).

Feeding California condor juveniles

As for the Centennial Housing Project, the amount of space this development would consume is roughly equal to an area the size of San Francisco.

“Proposed for the northern edge of L.A. County in an area subject to high wildfire risk, Centennial would spread over 6,700 acres (the equivalent of about 5,000 football fields).

“The development would destroy a large portion of the Antelope Valley Wildlands, which contain some of the most beautiful wildflower fields left in California. Rare wildlife like the San Joaquin kit fox and California condor would lose their homes.

“The development also would add 75,000 new vehicle trips a day to the region’s already-clogged freeways, undermining California’s climate goals and generating air pollution.”

Also included in the Center release were names of supervisors supporting Centennial as well as that of the one person who voted against – Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

Adding to this, as it has to do with giving Centennial the green light specifically, I would ask: What were Supervisors Barger, Hahn, Ridley-Thomas and Solis thinking?!

Images: Peterson B Moose (upper), David Clendenen (lower), both with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This post was last revised on May 31, 2020 @ 6:59 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

– Alan Kandel

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