People weighing in on the prospect of more than 19,000 homes being built just south of the Kern County line expressed concerns about increased traffic, air pollution, water availability and the inevitability of homelessness Wednesday.
With not a single house yet built for the Centennial Specific Plan project earmarked for the Northwest corner of the county, Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commissioners asked development reps what contingency they had for the homeless.
“You need to talk about what you’re willing to do when the homeless finds a home in Centennial,” Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commissioner Pat Modugno asked developer reps at the close of Wednesday’s public hearing the the housing project.
“We’ve got to have some recognition that it is going to be a challenge,” he said. “And, we need to be talking about it today.”
The Centennial Specific Plan project sits on 12,323 acres just south of the Kern County line. It is expected to accommodate 19,333 homes on about 4,987 acres set aside for residential uses.
Many of the questions posed by commissioners Wednesday — Where will schools go? Where will garbage be brought? – were answered by Jennifer Hernandez, an attorney representing the developer Tejon Ranch, noting details were spelled out in the lengthy specific plan.
Responding to expressed fears of diminished air quality, Hernandez pointed to a report compiled by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in favor of Centennial.
The only issue that caught her off-guard, she said, was an allegation Tejon Ranch officials failed to discuss their water plans with members of the Golden Valley Municipal Water District — something Hernandez said developers had not only done but did so with a written agreement.
“If you’re going to annex land then the Golden Valley Municipal Water District board needs to be involved in it,” Rose Bryan, a member of that water board said.
Hernandez, adamant that discussions with the water district had taken place, promised the commission she would follow up concern expressed by Bryan.
In explaining Centennial’s water plans further, Hernandez said the project would create no new demand on water. She called the plan: net-zero water.
“We are importing every single drop of water,” she said.
At least two of the five commissioners, noting “net-zero water” was a catchy buzzword, said they wanted more details about water at the next meeting.
Backers of the housing project cited a dire need for affordable housing in Los Angeles County and a more pressing need for affordable emergency housing.
“The availability and affordability of housing is critical,” said Charlie Weiss, speaking in favor of the housing plan for the California Resources Corporation.
“I want my daughter to be able to afford to live in California,” he said. “The Centennial project is going to address the issue of much needed, urgently needed, housing.
“We recommend approval of this project without delay,” he said.
Tony Mize, vice-president of the non-profit National Community Renaissance, in favor of the Centennial project, told commissioners: “The crisis we’re facing right now is affordable housing.
“We are so horribly short of housing in Los Angeles,” he said.
Opponents of the housing project argued it would diminish air quality, put thousands of more cars on Interstate 5 and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
J. P. Rose, an attorney representing the environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity, talked about the destruction of grasslands.
“Centennial is the wrong vision for Los Angeles County. It would decimate some of California’s last native grasslands and wildflower fields while generating unprecedented traffic and air pollution,” he said, noting the project would generate over 75,000 external vehicle trips every day.
“Centennial would put the final nail in the coffin on these quintessential California landscapes,” he said.
Steve Hartman, spokesman for the California Native Plant Society, called Centennial “a lose-lose project.”
“It will replace natural habitat with a leapfrog development,” he said. “We urge you to vote ‘No’ on Centennial.”
At the close of the day-long hearing – which included those participating in the same meeting from a remote location in Lancaster – commissioners decided to continue talk about Centennial on July 11.
“This is a beautiful well-designed project in the wrong place,” Orchid Black, a citizen, who expressed concern about wildfires sparked by increased traffic.