Commissioners extend public hearing on Centennial project

Site west of Neenach where more than 19,000 homes are proposed in Centennial Specific Plan. photo for the Signal by Jeff Zimmerman

The California Condor’s habitat, open space preservation, Grapevine traffic, affordable housing, seismology, fire safety and Valley Fever were among the issues discussed at a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed Centennial development.

More than two dozen people testified on the plan to build 19,000 homes near the Kern County line — 16 of whom spoke at the downtown hearing in the Hall of Records, on Temple Street in Los Angeles, and nine others who spoke from a remote location at the Lancaster Library.

Some were in favor, some were opposed, but at the end of a three-hour session with still others waiting to be heard, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission voted to continue the public hearing for at least another day.

The public hearing on Centennial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Aug. 29.

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.

Last month, commissioners told Centennial developer Tejon Ranch to return to the commission with details on how they would incorporate affordable housing into the plan.

The following summaries are drawn from viewing the live internet stream of the two-location hearing:

Tejon Ranch presentation

On Wednesday, Tejon Ranch representatives kicked off the hearing with a slide show addressing affordable housing and a number of other key aspects of the housing project, which an estimated 60,000 people could someday call home.

Their presentation covered affordable housing, the feasibility of mass transit and managing open space.

“The preservation of this open space is too important not to protect it,” said Greg Medeiros, vice president of community development for Tejon Ranch.

“Tejon Ranch has a 175-year history of protecting and preserving this land, which is why we entered into agreement to permanently protect 240,000 acres (throughout Tejon Ranch),” Medeiros said.

The developer cited three types of open space promised with the Centennial project: An open space preserve, consisting of 3,865 acres with restricted access; undisturbed green space consisting of 406 acres allowing for limited access; and disturbed green space, providing 1,353 acres featuring trails and regional parks.

One of the uses earmarked for the open space preserve was grazing, which has been going on since 1843, Medeiros said.

Commissioners’ concerns

In addressing one of the key concerns expressed by commissioners last month, Medeiros said that as many as 970 residential units are set aside for senior living.

About places of worship, another aspect of the plan requested last month by Commissioner Pat Modugno, Medeiros said more than 75 acres have been allocated for places of worship and nonprofit groups such as the YMCA, YWCA, and the Boys and Girls Club.

Medeiros also discussed concerns about medical care facilities, child care and local hiring for construction. He said the goal is to hire 10 percent from local residents, minority-owned, woman-owned and disadvantaged businesses, which would include workers in the Santa Clarita Valley described as living within 50 miles of Centennial.

Commissioner Doug Smith called 10 percent “pretty anemic” since that number has been as high as 30 percent in other areas.

“We can do much better than 10 percent if we move forward,” Smith said.


Sharon Rooney, who addressed the commission remotely from Lancaster, warned disturbing soil for the construction of 19,000 homes would release a significant, harmful, amount of spores carrying Valley Fever.

“The spores become airborne when the soil is disturbed,” she said, identifying herself as having suffered medical problems due to Valley Fever.

“There are too many negatives about this plan and its destruction of habitat,” Sean Lahmeyer said.

Rachel Wing of Pasadena told the commission: “The amount of urban/wildlife interface only magnifies the risk of wildfire.” She also cited a “permanent loss to nature” and singled out ill effects on the endangered California Condor.

Richard Dickey warned of illegal dumping. “Once the infrastructure is in place, the adjacent hills would be places where trash is dumped. There would be off-road vehicles and illegal trash dumping.

“Once you break it, you’ll never fix it,” he said.

Jack Eidp told the commission: “This is a totally inappropriate area for development.”

Nick Jensen said: “This is not only bad for nature, it’s bad for people,” adding, “What we really need is affordable housing near centers of work.”

In favor

Commissioners also heard from people calling for them to approve the project.

“We need the housing that Centennial will provide,” said George Dickerson.

Richard Despain said: “I urge you to approve this project,” citing affordable housing and parks.

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