News on Tejon Ranch
Tejon Ranch Co. Reports Third Quarter Results of Operations -- 2008
Land sales consisted of 27.9 acres in Tejon Industrial Complex -- West (TIC) for $4,731,000 and 700 acres of undeveloped agricultural land for $1,858,000.
11/15/2008 By Jan de Leeuw
In the November 2008 issue of High Country News I found a quotation from Felice Pace that made me think of the Tejon Agreement again.
Pace may be a bit harsh, but nevertheless what he says is recognizable. Now that a few months have passed, let me summarize the reasons why I did not like the agreement, and the way in which the agreement was reached.
California’s environmental establishment appears to have become more interested in making deals with the purveyors of environmental harm than in forcing those perpetrating the harm to cease the destruction.
First, negotiations were conducted by the Sierra Club without involving its volunteers in the Tejon area, i.e. the local Condor Group. At the very last minute the Kern County and Los Angeles Chapters had the opportunity to rubber-stamp the agreement. This was strictly “take it or leave it”, with the clear implication that opposing the agreement was irresponsible. It is understandable that donation-based lobbying organizations such as the Planning and Conservation League or the Endagered Habitats League act in this way, but it is inappropriate for volunteer-based organizations such as the Sierra Club or Audubon to do the same.
Second, I am not fond of hypocrisy, posing, and bullying. Tejon Ranch Company, those champions of conservation, threatened to sell off their land in small pieces so that the Ranch would be utterly destroyed, and environmentalists would potentially have to fight hundreds of small developments. I guess it makes sense, given our greed-driven system, for investors to try to sell their land holdings for as much money as possible, at least for market value. But it is obnoxious for them to pretend that they have noble motives, while the natural resources and the incredible beauty of the place are only used as sales pitches on glossy brochures and treacly web pages. There is nothing noble about selling unbuildable lands back to the taxpayers. It is true that one could build, say, 250,000 homes on the 270,000 acres. But TRC management knows full well they would never get the permits and they would never be able to sell that many homes. So they may as well pretend to preserve California’s Legacy, while at the same time presenting this economically necessary move as a generous mitigation for their sprawl.
The third reason is more important. Some organizations, such as the South Coast Wildlands Project and the Conservation Biology Institute, are interested in preserving wildlife corridors and endangered species. That is their job. Other organizations, such as the Sierra Club, presumably have a more comprehensive approach to environmental issues. Part of this comprehensive approach is to be critical of leapfrog sprawl, of traffic-inducing developments, and of threats to the quality of the air and the availability of sufficient water. From this comprehensive approach it follows that we always must oppose development of a new city of 23,000 homes in an area that is
- 30 miles from the nearest job and population centers,
- rural and surrounded by National Forrest,
- fire-prone and earthquake-prone,
- problematic in air pollution and water supply levels,
- connected to the rest of civilization by thin and unstable threads.
Conservation is important, of course, but the people living in the area also have a right to be treated as a species with an endangered habitat. Like the mountain lion and the kit fox, we also have a corridor that needs to be protected.
And finally, it is debatable if the agreement is actually really beneficial to the environment. I tend to agree with most scientists that building a 3,500 home luxury resort in critical condor habitat cannot be justified or mitigated in any possible way. If Tejon decides to develop the Grapevine, by putting another 10,000+ homes there, then there will be 40,000 homes in the corridor, plus all the growth that this will induce, and we’ll just have another Santa Clarita on our hands. The cumulative impacts on the environment, including both people and wildlife, will be horrendous. In any case, the pros and cons of signing the agreement should have been discussed much more broadly, and in much more detail.
Of course I personally feel that it is a bleeding disgrace that a private organization of money managers owns a resource such as this in the first place, especially because of the way in which their precursors robbed and bullied their way into acquiring and holding on to the property. It was stolen from the public, and from the original owners, a hundred years ago. It is difficult to be enthusiastic about the fact that it is now partially fenced back to the public by this latest generation of robber barons.