County planners revisit and revise environmental impacts of Newhall Ranch

Proposed site of Newhall Ranch development, looking southeast on state Route 126 in Castaic. Dan Watson/The Signal.

In what Newhall Ranch developers see as one step closer to building its 21,000 homes on the west side of the Santa Clarita Valley, county planners today released revised environmental documents for two of the project’s subdivisions – Mission Village and Landmark Village.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning released draft revisions addressing the environmental impacts of both Mission Village and Landmark Village.

Specifically, planners address the two environmental issues of concern to the California Supreme Court –  emissions of greenhouse gases and protection of an endangered fish during project construction.

“FivePoint viewed the Supreme Court’s ruling as an opportunity to set a higher standard of environmental sustainability—net zero greenhouse gas emissions,” FivePoint Chairman and CEO Emile Haddad said in a news release issued Thursday.

The report comes on the heels of a similar report addressing the same two environmental concerns released two weeks ago by the California Department of Fish And Wildlife.

It was their hope – as is the hope of county planners – that changes made to the EIR would satisfy the court and place Newhall Ranch back on track for construction of the massive housing project.

Newhall Ranch developers, Aliso Viejo-based FivePoint – having taken over the project initiated by Newhall Land development company – see the reports as a step in the direction that leads to construction.

Santa Clarita Valley residents have a chance to file official comments on both of the revised environmental impact reports.  They have until Jan. 6, 2017, to comment on the state report released earlier this month, and until Jan. 17 for the report released today by the planning department.

The Newhall Ranch project was sidelined a year ago when the state’s top court took issue with two specific environmental consequences of the development.

Supreme Court

In November 2015, citing the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and insufficient protection for a tiny endangered fish, the California Supreme Court tossed out the developer’s report concluding 21,000 homes in the Newhall Ranch master planned community project would not adversely affect the environment.

The court ruled that Newhall Land – now FivePoint – failed to provide evidence in its Environmental Impact Report to prove its project was consistent with meeting state guidelines to control harmful greenhouse gas.

The court also stated that measures calling for capture and relocation of the unarmored threespine stickleback — a species of fish protected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife — amounted to illegal movement, or “take,” of the endangered indigenous fish.

“Today’s release of these narrowly focused environmental documents by the county of Los Angeles is an important step forward for this proposal, and the remarkable economic vitality it will bring to the Santa Clarita Valley and the Southern California region for generations to come,” Haddad said.

County Approval

Mission Village and Landmark Village are the first two villages within the approved Newhall Ranch Specific Plan, which were originally approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2012.

The documents released today by county planners reach the conclusion that: “The recommended mitigation measures will reduce, mitigate, and offset 100 percent of the Project’s GHG (greenhouse gasses) emissions, allowing the Project to achieve net zero GHG emissions.”

FivePoint also promised in its news release to avoid harming the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback fish by redesigning two bridges to be developed on the property.

Other conservation measures include more than 10,000 acres of protected open space, including 50 miles of new trails, as well as an extensive array of water conservation programs.

The Landmark Village community will be developed on 293 acres within Newhall Ranch and contain up to 1,444 residential units, approximately 1 million square feet of mixed-use commercial space as well as an elementary school and park.

Mission Village will be developed on 1,262 acres and contain up to 4,055 residential units and 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use commercial space, along with an elementary school, fire station and public library, among other uses.

Newhall Ranch, according to developers, is expected to create an estimated 60,000 permanent jobs at buildout along with hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue and meaningful relief for Southern California’s acute housing shortage.

The development is to be built in stages and – when it’s done – include up to 11.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial space as well as up to 21,500 homes.


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