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

UPDATE: Newhall Ranch a go after developer and environmentalists reach settlement

 

Newhall Ranch developer, FivePoint, and environmentalists who for years have been trying to stop the project have reached an historic agreement which paves the way for 21,000 homes to be built on the Santa Clarita Valley’s west side.

FivePoint Holdings, LLC, owner and developer of mixed-use master-planned communities in coastal California, on Monday reached a settlement on Newhall Ranch with key national and state environmental groups, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the Wishtoyo Foundation, a leading Native American organization, according to a news release issued Monday by FivePoint.

According to the developer, the settlement is a seminal moment for Newhall Ranch, a pioneering community that will bring critically needed housing and jobs to the region while protecting Native American resources, natural resources and setting a new standard of sustainability for the nation.

“This is a tremendous settlement that provides for 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,” said Emile Haddad, President and CEO of FivePoint.

Environmentalist who took their case against Newhall Ranch all the way to the Supreme Court expressed similar excitement about the deal.

“We are glad to have the important benefits in place for the climate and for the community,” Aruna Prabhala, staff attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity, told The Signal Monday.

 

PLEDGED PROTECTION

Prabhala called concessions made by the developer to protect the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback fish and the threatened San Fernando Valley spineflower as: “huge and more than we’ve seen from any other development.

“This means the difference between extinction and survival for the stickleback,” she said.

The deal pledges construction will proceed at a greater distance from the Santa Clara River flood plain, specifically, 55 acres of floodplain protection, Prabhala said.

As well, developers pledge $16.5 million for the creation of a fund devoted to protecting the river and its endangered species, she said.

“That is really significant,” she told The Signal.

John Buse, an attorney also with the Center of Biological Diversity, told The Signal: “To me, and the whole organization, this marks the culmination of our long years of lawsuits and our victory at the Supreme Court.”

Under the settlement, the following organizations, which have challenged the Newhall Ranch project, will withdraw their objections in federal and state courts: the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Wishtoyo Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the California Native Plant Society, FivePoint announced Monday.

Two local environmental organizations that have pending challenges to certain approvals for the Newhall Ranch project did not participate in the settlement.

 

LOCAL GROUPS DECLINE

The two SCV groups which passed on the deal include the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment – or SCOPE and Friends of the Santa Clara River.

SCOPE spokeswoman Lynne Plambeck said she was saddened to hear environmentalist “partners” had opted to take the deal.

“I’m sad to no longer be working with them,” she told The Signal Monday, noting she and SCOPE have worked with the Center for Biological Diversity for 15 years.

“We’re going to find new partners,” she said.

Plambeck said the settlement deal “muzzles the democratic discussion.”

“Our board took a long time considering it,” she said. “If we agreed, then we would not be able to speak up in future, we couldn’t say anything about air quality or about anything.

“It violates our mission statement for public advocacy, environmental review and to comment on the planning process,” Plambeck said.

“They wave a lot of money in front of everybody,” she said. “But,

SCOPE continues to fight the building of Newhall Ranch having filed its most recent lawsuit against the developers last month.

Ron Bottorff, chairman for the Friends of the Santa Clara River, said that by not signing the deal, his group gets to fight another day.

“There were good reasons to settle and good reasons not to settle,” he said, noting his group was conflicted about whether or not take the deal.

“By not settling, we can continue to fight on all fronts of the project,” he said.

NET ZERO

Monday’s settlement builds on existing protection for the stickleback and the groundbreaking “Net Zero Newhall” program, as approved by the County of Los Angeles and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, ensuring net zero emissions of greenhouse gas from the community’s construction and operations.

The settlement will provide even greater environmental and cultural investments and protections to benefit the region, including:

  • Reducing the community’s footprint adjacent to the Santa Clara River floodplain • Enhancing the community’s greenhouse gas program to further combat climate change
  • Expanding and enhancing spineflower conservation areas and programs

 

  • Creating the Santa Clara River Conservation Fund to promote conservation of sensitive species within the Santa Clara River watershed

 

  • Taking new steps to protect Native American cultural resources and develop a Native American cultural facility

 

“This settlement enables Newhall Ranch to achieve even higher standards of greenhouse gas emissions, habitat creation and preservation, and protection of important cultural resources,” Haddad said. “We look forward to creating a truly cutting-edge community for the Santa Clarita Valley, Los Angeles County and the State of California.”

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