An Update on L.A. Developments from the Sierra Club
San Gabriel Valley Task Force
A proposal that has Task Force attention is the Pacific Heights Housing development planned for Hacienda Heights. This project proposes to build 47 homes on 114 acres of open space in the Puente Hills. The property is adjacent to Schabarum Regional Park on the east and open space of the wildlife corridor managed by the Native Habitat Authority to the South. If permitted, 126 oak trees as well as a grove of sycamore trees will be removed and there will be extensive modification of the topography. The property is included in an SEA and is deemed a fire hazard area by the State. The Task force favors purchase of this property and its addition to the local wildlife corridor as land under management of the Native Habitat Authority in the Puente-Chino Hills. A resolution was submitted to and approved by the Conservation Committee supporting the preservation of this land. A letter has been submitted to the Los Angeles County Planning Commission asking for delay of approval of the DEIR (expected to be submitted by the developer in December) until release of the revised Hacienda Heights Community Plan (expected in January, 2009). Contacts have been established with the Puente-Chino Hills Task Force of Sierra Club, the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association, the Native Habitat Authority, and local residents, all groups with potential interest in stopping or modifying this development.
Another project we are currently interested in are plans to be developed for preservation and development of Cattle Canyon located in the San Gabriel Mountains for recreation by the Watershed Council. Letters of support have also been sent by the Task Force to Rivers and Mountains Conservancy supporting grants to the City of Duarte and City of El Monte for trail projects within the Emerald Necklace. Visits to the sites of these projects were made by members of the Task Force prior to submission of letters.
Save the Montebello Hills Task Force
In 2008 the Save the Montebello Hills Sierra Club Task force remained very active and faced numerous new challenges as the city began preparing the draft EIR for the developer's proposed 1200 dwelling unit project on the last remaining open space Montebello Hills. Challenges facing us in 2009 include the release of the city's draft general plan and the release of the draft EIR for the Montebello Hills Specific Plan. In addition to responding to those events, we will continue with our outreach and public notification activities as well as with our numerous other activities in this effort as listed above.
The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force:
1) COASTAL SLOPE TRAIL – Joined with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council and several local conservation and trails groups to appeal to the Malibu City Council the Malibu Planning Commission’s approval of a subdivision on the crest of a very scenic coastal mountain and its refusal to require the developer to dedicate a key segment of the proposed Coastal Slope Trail. Outcome: we refused to make concessions demanded by the developers and were successful in persuading the City Council to require an EIR for the subdivision. The developers, a world famous rock group, ultimately abandoned the project.
2) CORRAL CANYON – Supported the use of Proposition 84 funds by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and State Parks to purchase 800 acres of Corral Canyon in Malibu, designated by the Chapter as a high priority park acquisition in 1995. Outcome: the land has been purchased. Over two-thirds of the Corral Canyon watershed is now in public ownership.
3) SOKA/KING GILLETTE – 600 acres of oak woodlands and meadows is a spectacular mountain setting recognized by all park agencies as the premier site for a visitor center and interpretive facility for the Santa Monica Mountains park system. The Task Force and the Chapter took a lead role in the struggle to block major urban development here and find the funding to acquire this very costly property. It was a long struggle that included successful lawsuits against Los Angeles County and the Coastal Commission, but we finally prevailed when the land was acquired three years ago by a consortium of the National Park Service, State Parks, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The park agencies have now started the process of public outreach and planning for future uses of this crown jewel of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force is taking a major part in these planning sessions to ensure that the 4000 oak trees on the property and the abundant and very visible wildlife are protected, but also to ensure that the highest and best use of the property remains as an overnight outdoor education facility for urban schoolchildren. Outcome: this planning process is just beginning this week, and will take up a lot of our attention in coming months.
4) TRANCAS LAGOON – We are supporting efforts by park agencies to acquire 7 acres just north of Pacific Coast Highway at the mouth of Trancas Canyon in West Malibu which will help protect and restore a small wetland and provide a trail linkage between heavily used Zuma County Beach and the National Park Service’s 7000 acre Zuma-Trancas unit in the mountains to the north. The property is a 1995 Chapter priority acquisition and a National Park Service priority for acquisition. The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force has sent letters to the Santa Bay Restoration Commission and the State Rivers and Parkways Grant Program urging them to allocate Proposition 84 funds to acquire the 7 acres. Outcome: this matter is still pending.
5) MALIBU VALLEY FARMS – The Task Force submitted lengthy testimony to the Coastal Commission this year and last year opposing Coastal Commission approval of a large, open-ended horse facility virtually on the very banks of a stream draining directly into Soka and Malibu Creek State Park. This approval violates water quality and riparian habitat protection policies in the Coastal Act and the Local Coastal Plan, but the Commission approved it nonetheless. The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force has offered to help finance litigation to overturn this outrageous decision and to assist efforts to persuade the Coastal Commission to revoke the permit approval.
6) TEMESCAL CANYON – This canyon in Pacific Palisades is the most heavily used trail access into the Santa Monica Mountains from the Los Angeles Basin. Public access is now threatened by aggressive, pre-existing private uses. The Task Force has testified in support of restricting these private uses in order to maintain pubic trailhead parking and trail access from the Basin into the Mountains.
7) TRAIL ACCESS – Subdivision and mansion development has long threatened to block trails which have historically provided hikers access to various parts of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Task Force has taken a lead role in efforts to keep these trails open to the public, specifically in the Westwood area.
8) LOWER TOPANGA – The Task Force was active a few years back in supporting acquisition of this valuable property by CA State Parks. Throughout this year, our Task Force volunteers have spent many hours/days removing non-natives from this land, watering the new plantings, and joining in clean-up efforts. This activity is on-going.
Santa Clarita Group
2008 has been a year of great success for the Santa Clarita Valley Group.
NEWHALL RANCH: Members began the year organizing letter-writing campaigns and trips to the Los Angeles Planning Commission to voice concerns regarding the looming threat of the proposed Newhall Ranch. Although, the proposed Newhall Ranch project was not stopped — it has slowed down. This is especially true considering how the company backing this proposed development has fallen into extreme economic troubles. We have high hopes that this will translate into a serious delay of the project and more time to continue negotiating for smart growth.
LAS LOMAS: We were also thrilled to see the years of work to stop the Las Lomas project pay off. Working with other Sierra Club members in the San Fernando Valley, we met with numerous neighborhood councils to explain reasons to NOT support the builder's project. We were also part of building a large coalition consisting of elected officials, individuals, neighborhoods, and groups to oppose the project. The proposed Las Lomas development would have sat in the Newhall Pass at the northeast corner of the Interstate 5 and State Route 14 interchange and would have been the epitome of SPRAWL. The 555-acre housing and commercial development project would have dramatically increased traffic congestion in Newhall Pass and would have destroyed a major wildlife corridor. With the additional concerns of building in a Fire and Earthquake Hazard Area, air quality, etc. the Los Angeles City Council, led by Greig Smith, stopped the Las Lomas project from moving forward.
TEJON RANCH: Also, members of the Sierra Club (Angeles and Kern-Kaweah chapters), Audobon, NRDC, Endangered Habitats League, and the Planning and Conservation League worked together with the Tejon Ranch Company in a rare opportunity to preserve one of the most valuable unprotected natural resources in the state. Tejon Ranch, the largest contiguous privately owned portion of land left in California will now have an unprecedented 90% of its breathtaking scenery conserved for the future. Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Southern California Program of the NRDC stated, “This was an extremely complicated deal, but also a once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity.” Additionally, this agreement creates an independent 12 member Tejon Ranch Conservancy. These environmental partners will manage the preserved land in perpetuity.
SOLEDAD CANYON MINE -- CEMEX CORP.: We also successfully passed a motion recommending that the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club support HR 5887 (McKeon), the Soledad Canyon Mine Act. In 1990, contractual rights to mine a site in Soledad Canyon for sand and gravel was granted by Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These would permit the current owner of the contracts, CEMEX, to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from the site over a maximum of 20 years. The City of Santa Clarita was joined in opposition by the Santa Clarita Group, as well as many other groups and organizations. Many lawsuits ensued over CEQA compliance, including air quality, nearness of local schools and housing, traffic and road damage, contamination of the Santa Clara River and local aquifers, and quality of life issues. This solution was crafted by the Secretary of the Interior, the City of Victorville, the City of Santa Clarita, and CEMEX. The bill will cancel CEMEX’s two existing Soledad Canyon mining contracts with the BLM. At the same time it will fairly compensate CEMEX by providing the company with designated BLM land of equal value in the Victorville area. No mining will be allowed on these Victorville sites. After receiving the land near Victorville, CEMEX has agreed to sell the land to the City of Victorville to be developed in accordance with local land use and economic development goals. We are actively working for passage of this bill which will be reincarnated next year.
WILDERNESS PROTECTION: We are also continuing to work on the Eastern Sierra wilderness Bill. Members have worked in the community to increase awareness, as well as lobbying in Washington DC. This bill will permanently protect over 470,000 acres wilderness and 52 miles of wild & scenic rivers in the Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Mountains. We are still hoping for passage this year. Another accomplishment of our group has been our continued work in the community. Many of our programs have been informational on local issues, such as MRFs, land use issues of the local hospital expansion, and Tejon Ranch. Our group also participates in community events such as the Annual River Rally, College of the Canyons Environmental Awareness Day, and partners with the local Community Hiking Club (offered through the Placerita Nature Center). We are constantly working to introduce families and members of the community to the joys of hiking an protecting nature. For year 2009 we anticipate continuing to push the Wilderness and CEMEX bills in Congress in addition to fighting a number of proposed developments.