Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 3, 2015

Contact:  Aruna Prabhala, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7122
Dean Wallraff, Advocates for the Environment, (818) 353-4268
Lynne Plambeck, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, (661) 255-6899
David Magney, California Native Plant Society, (805) 701-2132 
Ron Bottorff, Friends of the Santa Clara River, (805) 498-4323

California Supreme Court Review Sought for Second Massive Newhall Ranch 'Village'

LOS ANGELES, Calif.— Environmental and public-interest groups continued their fight against Newhall Ranch today and filed a petition for review to the California Supreme Court over the second phase of the sprawling development, Mission Village. Newhall Ranch is one of the single-largest residential development projects ever contemplated in California and would devastate wildlife habitat, damage cultural resources and emit thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Newhall Ranch covers nearly 12,000 acres along a six-mile stretch of the Santa Clara River, the largest remaining wild river in Southern California. Full development of the project would bring about 60,000 new residents to the site. Mission Village would cover more than 1,000 acres of that area and include 1,444 residential units and more than 1 million square feet of commercial space.

The petition for review filed today specifically challenges the environmental analysis of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at 64,017 metric tons annually. 

“Los Angeles County is hiding the massive climate impacts of this project and letting the developers off the hook on mitigation measures,” said Aruna Prabhala, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This same flawed and deceptive approach was used throughout the environmental review for Newhall Ranch and is already subject to scrutiny by the justices of the California Supreme Court.”

The Santa Clara River Valley is home to a great diversity of rare species, among them the unarmored threespine stickleback fish, California condorleast Bell’s vireosouthwestern willow flycatcherCalifornia red-legged frogarroyo toadsouthern steelhead trout and San Fernando Valley spineflower. If allowed to move forward, the development would transform more than 2,000 acres along the Santa Clara River from rugged open space and agricultural land into a sprawling new suburban city.

“Rather than ensuring that the last free-flowing river in the county is preserved, the agencies have approved development directly in the Santa Clara River’s fragile floodplain,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment. “This massive development in sensitive habitat and prime farmland is out of step with contemporary urban planning.”

The Newhall Ranch Development was originally conceived in the 1980s and has been subject to numerous legal challenges since. In 2010 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a series of permits for the entire development after completing environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Two years later Los Angeles County approved Landmark Village and Mission Village — the planned first and second phases of the development — and relied heavily on the environmental review and analysis done by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. All three approvals were challenged in state court by environmental groups. The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the approvals issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Los Angeles County for Landmark Villages. 

In 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also issued permits for the massive development after completing reviews under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act. Those permits are currently being challenged in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Today’s petition for review was filed by California Native Plant Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Santa Clara River, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment and Wishtoyo Foundation and its Ventura Coastkeeper program. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court under the California Environmental Quality Act in June 2012.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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