April 21, 2004
CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUPS OPPOSE LARGEST SINGLE DEVELOPMENT EVER PROPOSED IN CALIFORNIA
Comments Submitted on Scope of Environmental Analysis for the 23,000 Unit Centennial Specific Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Monica Bond, Biologist, Center for Biological
Diversity, (909) 659-6053 x. 304
The Center for Biological Diversity (“Center”) and Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment (“CRPE”) today submitted comments on the Centennial Development, the largest single development proposal ever considered in California. The proposed development consists of 23,000 residential units and over 14 million square feet of commercial and retail space on over 11,600 acres. The County of Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning is processing the project application and conducting review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Today marks the end of the official “scoping process” in which the public and regulatory agencies submit comments regarding the scope of the issues to be analyzed in an upcoming Draft Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”).
In today’s comments, the Center and CRPE stressed the importance of the project area as a unique and irreplaceable piece of California’s natural heritage, as well as the negative impacts of the sprawl style development in areas such as the impact on human health from air pollution emissions.
The Centennial Development is proposed for a 12,000 acre piece of the 270,000 Tejon Ranch, which spreads from the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada , over the Tehachapi Mountains , and into the Antelope Valley . The Tejon Ranch is a biological diversity hotspot that lies at the confluence of four major biogeographic regions. It is a haven for rare and endemic species, ancient oak trees, endangered California condors, rare native vegetation communities, and intact watersheds and streams. The Tejon Ranch is also surrounded by other public and private protected land, including the Los Padres National Forest and Windwolves Preserve to the southwest, Bitterroot National Wildlife Refuge and Carrizo Plain to the west, and the Sequoia National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Lands to the northeast. The Tejon Ranch is a vital wildlife corridor connecting the southern Sierra to the Transverse Ranges and beyond.
The Center and CRPE urged the complete disclosure of the full range of environmental impacts in areas including biological resources, water availability and quality and quantity, air pollution emissions on human health and the environment, traffic, growth inducement, and a suite of impacts from sprawl style development. The Center and CRPE believe that disclosure of the true impacts of this unprecedented development proposal should lead to denial of the project by LA County and other regulatory agencies.
“The Center supports preservation of the entire Tejon Ranch as natural habitat and open space,” said Monica Bond, a Center wildlife biologist. “The development of the Centennial site would irrevocably and fundamentally alter the California landscape, and constitute an unacceptable loss of biological diversity and habitat connectivity.”
Comments received by today’s deadline will be included in the Draft EIR released by LA County in the coming months, though LA county must also accept written comments on the Draft EIR and through the completion of the CEQA process. LA County’s approval of the project would likely be the first step the process that would require approval from a host of agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and others.
Environmental organizations including the Center and CRPE have vowed to fight for protection of the Tejon Ranch and California’s natural heritage. The Kern Kaweah chapter of the Sierra Club also opposes the Centennial Project as currently proposed. In October 2003, the Center and CRPE, along with the Sierra Club and Kern Audubon Society won a major legal victory when a Kern County Superior Court judge vacated the Kern County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Tejon Industrial Complex East, a 1,109 acre, 15 million square foot Industrial Complex in Southern Kern County in the Grapevine area. The Court invalidated the approval based on the failure of the project’s EIR to fully disclose and analyze Industrial Complex’s air quality impacts, impacts to human health, and impacts to several imperiled species.