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Housing and Homelessness

Judge Says Case Against Sprawling Tejon Ranch Development Can Move Forward

Dried branches and leaves are in focus in the foreground with mountainous landscape visible in the background.
Tejon Ranch, which features 270,000 acres of sprawling private land about 65 miles north of L.A.
(Ian Lee/Flickr Creative Commons)
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A judge has ruled that two environmental groups may move forward with a lawsuit against a planned sprawling development at the rural northern edge of Los Angeles County.

The Tejon Ranch Company’s Centennial Project was first proposed two decades ago, and has been mired in environmental review and legal challenges ever since.

Despite a recent settlement with a third environmental organization, an L.A. County judge decided last week to allow the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) to continue with their lawsuit challenging the project.

“This is just the wrong style of development for the 21st century,” said Nick Jensen, conservation program director for the California Native Plant Society. “We can have solutions to our housing crisis that don't put the environment and public safety at risk.”

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Tejon Ranch Development Has Been In The Works For Decades

The proposed master-planned development would bring nearly 20,000 new homes to a remote area about 65 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles, just south of the Kern County line.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2019 after years of review. Part of the approval hinged on the developer’s agreement to set aside 18% of new homes as affordable housing.

Soon after the county’s approval, environmental organizations sued to block the development, citing the destruction of native grassland and wildflowers — as well as the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from placing about 57,000 new residents far from existing population centers.

Developer Says Plan Would Provide Much-Needed New Housing

Climate concerns were at the heart of last month’s settlement reached by the Tejon Ranch Company and Climate Resolve, another environmental group that dropped its legal challenge in exchange for the developer agreeing to mitigate emissions through steps that included installing nearly 30,000 electric car chargers.

“Given the desperate need for new housing in California, especially affordable housing, it is unconscionable that groups such as CBD and CNPS continue to go to any lengths, as evidenced in this case, to try and stop the development of new housing,” Tejon Ranch Company spokesman Barry Zoeller said in a statement Monday.

Environmentalists continuing to fight the project say those homes will be at risk of wildfires, which have burned the area a number of times in recent decades.

“It's a project that we don't want to see built,” said Jensen. The judge’s decision, he said, “means that we're still alive, and we are ready to proceed.”

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