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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Community Should Claim Win on Newhall Ranch

Kudos to the various bands of concerned community members whose persistence led to a remarkable deal on the development of Newhall Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Last week’s vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to certify an environmental impact report appears to have cleared the way for the long-stalled project, which is poised to start with two phases that will bring about 5,500 housing units and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space to northern L.A. County (see related story, page 1).

Aliso Viejo-based developer FivePoint Holdings only won the approval after responding to a California Supreme Court decision that a prior environmental impact report didn’t sufficiently consider greenhouse gas emissions and protection measures for an endangered fish species.

FivePoint figured bridges over waterways into its plan – one step among several that removed the threat to the fish, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The developer also reworked Newhall Ranch into a “zero-net greenhouse gas emissions community.” Plentiful plug-ins for electric vehicles are among numerous green features now part of the picture, along with offsets such as environmentally focused retrofits to buildings in low-income communities here in Los Angeles, and cleaner cookstoves for folks in Africa.

Back to those community members who helped prompt the new standard, including Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment. Plambeck remains opposed and last week questioned whether the area could have “made it through this last drought” if the Newhall Ranch project had been in place.

It can be tough to disengage from a long-fought campaign.

It might help to realize when victory is at hand – and the zero-net plan from FivePoint looks like a victory for the community.

Plambeck’s reference to the drought, meanwhile, is open to interpretation as


Neither history nor current regulations nor a realistic look to the future suggests the longstanding pattern of population growth in the Santa Clarita Valley or the county will change.

We don’t believe it’s fair or helpful to use the historic challenge of getting enough water to sustain Southern California’s growth as reason to stop one developer’s plan to ultimately bring 21,500 units of housing to a market with a housing shortage – especially when you’ve already won by seeing extraordinary environmental measures incorporated into the plan.

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