LA County sued for approving 19K home Centennial project

Two environmental groups want to stop the thousands of homes from getting built on 12K acres of land
By Natalie Hoberman | May 29, 2019 03:00PM

Tejon Ranch CEO Greg Bielli and part of the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch property (Credit: Matthew Dillon via Flickr)

Tejon Ranch CEO Greg Bielli and part of the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch property (Credit: Matthew Dillon via Flickr)

One month after Los Angeles County officials approved construction of a controversial 19,000-home community, environmental groups filed a lawsuit to stop the massive project.

The California Native Plant Society and the Center for Biological Diversity filed their claim against the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, arguing the 12,000-acre Centennial project would cause irreversible harm, and potentially set the stage for more deadly wildfires. The suit was filed in L.A. County Superior Court.

A small publicly traded — Wall Street backed — company called Tejon Ranch will develop the sprawling community. In addition to the thousands of new homes, the project will include 10 million square feet of commercial space, set for an area 65 miles north of L.A., known as Antelope Valley.

In its lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim the April approval violated the California Environmental Quality Act. That CEQA law says that no project that causes “significant environmental effects” should be approved if there are feasible alternatives that would lessen those effects. In the past, complaints filed through CEQA have added months, sometimes years, to a project’s timeline.

After numerous reviews, the Board of Supervisors approved the project in a 4-1 vote in December, followed by the April final approval. The board did not immediately return a call for comment.

In a statement, Tejon Ranch singled out the Center for Biological Diversity, calling it “extremist” and its decision to sue “unconscionable and a waste of taxpayer dollars.” The company argued that the project, which has gone through four different environmental impact reports, will bring much-needed housing to a region in desperate need.

But the environmental groups claim Centennial would put 57,000 residents in a high fire-hazard area, would drastically worsen existing air pollution conditions., It would also displace much of the region’s natural wildlife, such as mountain lions and wildflower fields, according to the suit.

It added that the new giant housing community would also lead to increased commute times.

The controversial project will rise on 10 percent of Tejon’s 240,000 acres, with the rest preserved as open space. After much debate, the developers also agreed to set aside 18 percent of the homes as affordable.