L.A. Chapter of Native Plants Society Updates Us on North L.A. County Developments
From their July-August Newsletter
Newhall Ranch Development Update
BY ILEENE ANDERSON
I'm honored to represent the CNPS on the Friends of the Santa Clara River Board of Directors. The Friends was formed fifteen years ago as a mechanism for achieving greater conservation on the Santa Clara River, the largest free-flowing river not on a military base in Southern California (the Santa Margarita is primarily on Camp Pendleton). The Santa Clara River flows from its headwaters near Acton in Los Angeles County to the Pacific near Oxnard in Ventura County. Significant efforts are being made in Ventura county to secure open space along the river…unfortunately the same can not be said in Los Angeles County.
One of the big issues that the CNPS has been working on for years along the Santa Clara River is the Newhall Ranch development. The Los Angeles County specific plan was rubberstamped in 2003 and would allow four different “villages” for a total of 21,000 houses to move forward through the environmental review process. The beautiful oak savannahs, sage scrub and riparian communities behind Magic Mountain west to the County line could potentially be another cookie-cutter housing tract.
However, maybe not…the first “village” currently called Landmark Village is in the environmental review process. It would channelize the Santa Clara River and impact significant riparian resources. At the last planning commission hearing, the commission sent the project back for additional work…mostly on schools and traffic. That was a year ago and the project has not yet resurfaced. The next “village” currently called Mission Village would heavily impact the San Fernando Valley spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina) a diminutive plant thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1999. You'll recall that Newhall Ranch got its hand slapped for lying to the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) about the spineflower's existence (they denied it), until CDFG obtained a search warrant and caught Newhall Ranch red-handed trying to graze the plant with cows…presumably into oblivion. Out of this debacle, the spineflower got a 62 acre reserve, although the plants cover a much vaster area.
Now, with the housing market “in the tank”, and filling gas tanks for commuters taking a large bite out of the family budget, developing a new city on the fringe of the suburbs is not feasible right now.
Recently, the Newhall Ranch developers took another big hit. Newhall Ranch development is owned by parent company LandSource Communities Development and is heavily invested in by The California Public Employees' Retirement System, CalPERS. In May, LandSource defaulted on its loan payment to CalPERS according to the Los Angeles Times. Environmental organizations had warned CalPERS through a letter writing campaign in 2007 that investing in Newhall Ranch was a bad idea…and we were right. Now, retired California employees are bearing the brunt of investing in an ill-conceived boondoggle of a project.
But there is a silver lining the environmental groups are currently working hard to get a bail-out for CalPERS through a buyout of the Newhall Ranch – a buyout for open space
conservation. Please write your state legislators, Secretary of Resources etc. and ask them to consider buying out Newhall Ranch to save not only a classic piece of California landscape bursting with exquisite native plants and plant communities but also California
retirees from financial hardship in their golden years.
SANTA SUSANA FIELD LAB ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT NOTICE
The Dept. of Energy (DOE) has issued a notice of intent to prepare an EIS for remediation of Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) and conduct public scoping meetings. The public scoping period began on May 16, 2008 and will continue until Aug. 14, 2008. Local public scoping meetings are scheduled in Simi Valley at the Grand Vista Hotel, 999 Enchanted Way, July 22, 2008, 2 pm – 4 pm and 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm; and in Northridge at the World Vision Church, 19514 Rinaldi St., July 23, 2008, 2 pm – 4 pm and 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm. The SSFL located on approximately 2852 acres in the hills between Chatsworth and Simi Valley is a site where Rocketdyne conducted rocket testing and operated nuclear reactors from 1947 to 1988. A nuclear accident in July 1959 caused the release of radioactive gases. DOE is preparing an EIS to evaluate cleanup alternatives for the site. In addition to the public health concerns regarding the cleanup, there are implications for impacts to ecological resources that are on the SSFL site including endangered and protected species such as Braunton's milk-vetch, Santa Susana tarweed, Southern California black walnut and mariposa lilies. DOE expects to issue a draft EIS in early 2009 with a period for comments and the final EIS in fall 2010. Further information is available at Written comments should be addressed to Ms. Stephanie Jennings, NEPA Document Manager, U.S. Department of Energy, P.O. Box 10300, Canoga Park, CA 91309, Express Mail Delivery Address: 5800 Woolsey Canyon Road, Canoga Park, CA 91304.
Tejon Ranch Agreement Preserves 240,000 Acres
The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League, and the Endangered Habitats League agreed not to oppose the proposed development on the remaining ten percent of the Ranch. The agreement announced on May 8 will preserve habitat for threatened and endangered species in an area that marks the intersection of the Sierra Nevadas, the Coastal Range, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Mojave Desert, protecting mostly animals (California condor, etc.), but including the striped adobe lily and Bakersfield cactus. However, CNPS is concerned about the fate of the existing wildflower fields that would be likely displaced by the two large proposed developments.