Tejon Ranch’s Centennial project heads to Board of Supervisors

Concerns about fire dangers on the site have mounted recently

Dec.December 10, 2018 08:00 AM
From left: Board of supervisor supervisor Hilda Solis and Tejon Ranch CEO Greg Bielli

The Board of Supervisors is set to review the proposed Centennial housing project Tuesday, setting the stage for what could be a drawn-out battle for final approvals.

Tejon Ranch, a small publicly traded company, is behind the sprawling master-planned community, which would bring nearly 20,000 new homes and 10 million square feet of commercial space to an undeveloped region north of Los Angeles. The development has been the subject of a protracted battle between developers and environmentals since its inception some two decades ago.

The supervisors are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to review the latest proposal for Centennial.

While proponents view Centennial as a way to ease L.A.’s affordable housing crisis, opponents argue it would cause widespread environmental degradation and unnecessary urban sprawl.

Recently, new environmental concerns have cropped up.

The planned Centennial development would be located in “high” and “very high” fire hazard severity zones, per the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The department recorded 31 wildfires larger than 100 acres within five miles of the proposed project from 1964 to 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Environmentalists battling Centennial have been vocal about the fire hazards for years. The issue is likely to come to a head in the wake of the Woolsey fire, which caused up to $4.5 billion in residential property damage, property data firm CoreLogic estimated.

Barry Zoeller, a spokesperson for Tejon Ranch, said the firm has taken steps to minimize fire risk from the beginning.

As currently proposed, Centennial would bring four new fire stations to the region. It will also have homes with flame-resistant roofing and fire-resistant landscaping.

“We also understand the renewed focus on fire protection given the recent wildfires around the state,” Zoeller said. “Centennial is not like areas impacted by the Camp and Woolsey fires. It’s generally flat terrain that has been grazed for more than a century.”

Still, he added, “no community, urban or rural, is completely immune from the risk of fire.”

After nearly two decades in the pipeline, and five hearings, the Regional Planning Commission voted in late August 4-1 to advance the project to the board. Key aspects of the 12,000-acre project, such as homeless housing and medical care issues, were left for the board to decide.

While headquartered in Lebec, Calif., Tejon Ranch is backed by big institutional Wall Street money, including Daniel Tisch. Pending approvals for Centennial, the firm will have won entitlements for nearly 35,000 residential housing units and more than 35 million square feet of commercial and industrial space spread out over four different projects.

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