Housing: Green light for Centennial, yield sign for Grapevine

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

While developers with Tejon Ranch revel in Los Angeles County’s approval of their Centennial Project and its 19,000 homes, they continue to work on ways to satisfy a Kern County judge who halted their other project, Grapevine and its 12,000 homes.

For Tejon Ranch Co. officials, the past week has been bittersweet.

Centennial, south of the Kern County line, is moving ahead thanks to a favorable decision in Los Angeles County, while Grapevine, north of the same county line, remains stalled due to a unfavorable one.

Five days before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave Tejon Ranch the green light for Centennial, Kern County Judge Kenneth Twisselman II sent the company back to the drawing board, calling for a more rigorous review of the impacts associated with the traffic analysis done for Grapevine.

“In the space of a week, we get a picture of why real estate development is so needed in California,” Tejon Ranch spokesman Barry Zoeller said Friday afternoon.

Three I-5 Projects

The Grapevine project calls for 12,000 homes and at least 5 million square feet of commercial space 11 miles north of the Centennial project, which calls for 19,000 homes, near the Kern County line — and 47 miles from 21,000 homes being built in the Newhall Ranch master-planned community west of Santa Clarita.

All three projects — promising 52,000 homes in total – are along Interstate 5.

While Centennial sits tucked inside the northwest corner of Los Angeles County near Lebec, Grapevine calls for residential and commercial development north of the county line.

Needed housing

“The Grapevine community plan provides much-needed housing near the thriving jobs center that is the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center and sets a new standard for environmental sensitivity, sustainability and good planning,” Gregory S. Bielli, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch Co., said in a statement Dec. 7.

“It’s an integral part of the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement, which conserves 90 percent of Tejon Ranch, and is critical to Kern County’s future housing, economic development and job creation efforts,” he said.

“We want to thank the judge for his careful attention to the issues in this case and we look forward to satisfying the judge’s order and moving the plan forward.”

From the perspective of Tejon Ranch officials, the judge had rejected six of the seven issues raised in the challenge by the special interest groups.

The ruling was made regarding a lawsuit filed by the environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity.

For developers, the judge’s request for further study into the impacts of increased travel can be addressed to the judge’s satisfaction within the next year.

Zoeller said Tejon Ranch will address the judge’s concerns and “we hope to get back to development in 2019.”

Traffic concerns

The judge, Zoeller said, did identify “a need for Kern County and Tejon Ranch to further address potential impacts associated with the project’s traffic analysis and estimated internal capture rate, ordering a decertification and subsequent revision of the environmental impact report.

“The internal capture rate estimates how much of the total traffic generated by the community occurs within the community versus trips taken to or from the community,” he said.

J.P. Rose, spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Friday: “Like the (environmental impact report) EIR for the Grapevine development, the EIR for the Centennial development fails to realistically assess the impacts on traffic, air quality, public health and greenhouse gases in the event that Centennial does not become the ‘self-sustaining’ community promised by Tejon.

“In addition, while we’re still weighing our legal options, it is likely that the Center will file a lawsuit challenging the Centennial development.

“The California Environmental Quality Act prohibits L.A. County from approving projects like Centennial unless the county can clearly demonstrate that the public benefits of the project outweigh its costs.

“Here, it’s clear that the costs to people, wildlife, and our wallets far outweigh any benefit of the project. This sprawl project will put homeowners in a fire-prone area, destroy beautiful wildlife habitat, and add thousands of long-distance commuters to our already clogged freeways.”

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