Newhall Ranch developer Five Point Holdings in Aliso Viejo and environmental and culture groups that had been locked in legal battles over the proposed Santa Clarita Valley project have settled, the parties announced Monday.
Under the agreement, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Wishtoyo Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society will withdraw their legal objections in federal and state courts, the parties said.
In return, Five Point said it will shrink the project’s size, which runs 6 miles along the Santa Clara River, and establish $25-plus million in the form of the First Nations Ecological and Cultural Conservancy to build a Native American cultural facility, as well as the Santa Clara River Conservation Fund – an endowment for threatened and endangered wildlife in the river’s ecosystem.
“This is a tremendous settlement that provides added protections for Native American resources and the environment and allows one of the nation’s most innovative new communities to take an important step forward addressing California’s housing crisis and fueling the region’s economy,” Emile Haddad, chief executive of Five Point, said in a statement.
The conservation groups called the settlement historic and say it will preserve “thousands of acres for wildlife, provides millions of dollars to protect the Santa Clara River and requires stringent measures to cut greenhouse gases.”
In relation to Newhall Ranch’s Net-Zero Newhall, which is proposed as not increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the project, the developer will install 10,000 solar systems that produce about 250 million kilowatt-hours of electricity yearly and install 25,000 electric vehicle chargers inside Newhall Ranch and across L.A. County. Newhall will also not develop on 9,000 acres of property in Ventura County.
“CNPS is proud of the hard work to secure these protections for the environment and future Newhall homeowners," California Native Plant Society Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp said in a statement. “But this case should send a clear message to developers: the world has changed and needs smart planning. Outdated sprawl development harms the environment, endangers people, is unwanted in 21st century California, and CNPS will continue to fight it.”
In July, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors re-approved the project’s first two subdivisions, which would bring 5,500 homes and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space along State Route 126. Environmental groups unrelated to those that reached the settlement filed an opposing lawsuit aiming to nullify the decisions.
Newhall Ranch has proposed building 21,500 homes, 11.5 million square feet of commercial space, seven schools, 275 acres of parks and 60 miles of trails on 15,000 acres in the northern L.A. County area. Environmentalists have succeeded so far at stalling the project for 14 years since it was first approved in 2003.
Two other conservation groups, however, didn't drop their lawsuits and agree to the settlement.
This story originally appeared in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.