Tejon Ranch housing project dealt legal blow over environmental report
Ruling involves Grapevine development, but could affect larger project plans in LA
UPDATED August 1, 9:29 a.m.:
A state judge dealt a blow to the Tejon Ranch Company’s plans to develop one of its large planned communities on the edge of Los Angeles and Kern counties.
Judge Kenneth Twisselman II, a judge with Kern County Superior Court, sided with opponents in finding that the county’s environmental report fell short because it didn’t take into account the impact of increased car traffic on the proposed 8,000-acre Grapevine development.
While the ruling applied to Grapevine, it could have implications for the 12,000-acre Centennial project, another Tejon planned community that’s been bogged down in a battle with opponents for a decade.
The court said it will decide next February what parts of the environmental impact report must be redone. In his ruling, Judge Twisselman said the county had only calculated the impact of car traffic based on projected traffic numbers, without going a step further to figure in any margin of error.
The decision was a win for the project’s opponents, who have challenged Grapevine over its expected impact on the local rural ecosystem. It would be developed on land inhabited by a number of animals and plants native to the region. One litigant, the Center for Biological Diversity, claims the project would “suck up about 2.6 billion gallons of water per year” from the nearby Kern River, and that it would add 1 billion miles of car travel to the state’s total.
The larger Centennial development, which is about 60 miles north of L.A., has been criticized for similar reasons. The Centennial site is at an earlier stage than the Grapevine project. Grapevine already received approvals from Kern County, while Centennial needs the approval of L.A. County to move forward.
Centennial would take three decades to complete and include 20,000 homes and 10 million square feet of commercial, retail, and civic space. Some locals say that civic space, like the school and emergency services station that are part of the plans, are desperately needed in the rural area.
Tejon Ranch Company is a publicly traded company that owns the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch Property. It agreed to leave 90 percent of the property untouched in the late 1990s, when it first planned developments there.
The company says the projects will help address the state’s housing crisis. Critics say there are better ways to alleviate a housing shortage than building in rural areas dozens of miles from the cities that need the most housing, like L.A.