Supervisors approve Centennial plan for 19,000 homes

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


Tejon Ranch developers wanting to build more than 19,000 homes near the Kern County line received final approval for the Centennial development Tuesday. L.A. County supervisors granted approval after the project was tweaked to reflect their affordable housing concerns, among other items.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two motions pertaining to the Centennial Specific Plan Project with a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl the lone dissenting vote.

“We again want to thank the Board of Supervisors for its support of Centennial, which is an important part of our vision to engage in the environmentally sustainable development of a portion of Tejon Ranch,” said Gregory S. Bielli, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch Co.

“California, and Los Angeles County in particular, is suffering from a severe housing deficit. Our regional development plan will help address our state’s housing crisis, create jobs, and provide additional opportunities for businesses to locate in an area where their employees can afford to live, all while preserving 240,000 acres of open space within Tejon Ranch,” Bielli said.

In December, after the public weighed in on the merits and pitfalls of such a huge housing project, the same four supervisors affirmed the recommendation made by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission and Department of Regional Planning that Centennial be approved.

Following the board’s decision Tuesday, Tejon Ranch developers issued a news release highlighting attention given to affordable housing, citing that 18 percent of the housing units at Centennial will be officially designated affordable units.

Not everyone was pleased with the county’s stamp of approval.

Opposition

Kuehl voted against the plan in December over concerns that affordable housing would be so far away and in light of a heightened threat of wildfires. She voted the same way Tuesday.

Environmentalists with the Center for Biological Diversity, who joined the chorus of opposition about the project, held fast to their views Tuesday.

“Putting 57,000 people in a remote, high-fire-risk area is reckless,” said center spokesman J.P. Rose.

“(The supervisors’) approval of Centennial will only benefit Tejon Ranch Co. and its Wall Street investors, leaving county residents with the bill for new freeways to serve this development, skyrocketing firefighting costs and more bulldozed wildlands,” he said.

“And the incredibly biased environmental impact report the county co-wrote with the developer has been strongly criticized by independent experts at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Air Resources Control Board,” he added.

Project amendments

In December, when the board indicated its intent to greenlight the Centennial project, it directed county counsel to prepare the necessary documents for final approval.

County counsel subsequently prepared those documents, and on Tuesday presented them to the board on the consent calendar.  

One of the changes made to the plan was to amend highway maps of the Antelope Valley Area Plan and the County General Plan to add highways, parkways and expressways to those already existing maps.

Another change made to the project was altering the vesting tentative parcel map to create 20 large lot parcels on 8,408 acres for lease, conveyance and financing purposes.

Developers still have to obtain all the necessary permits for such things as grading before construction begins. The tweaked plan, however, cleared the final hurdle.

Affordable housing

“Centennial addresses the serious need to develop additional housing that’s within the reach of middle-class families in Southern California,” Tejon Ranch developers wrote in their news release.

The specific plan for Centennial includes 19,333 residential units and more than 10.1 million square feet of commercial space.

Centennial is part of the historic Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement that conserves 90% of Tejon Ranch property — 240,000 acres — and limits development to only the 10% of the property that’s located in the westernmost region of the ranch.

Los Angeles County uses a two-step process for land use approvals and Tuesday’s action included approval of specific ordinances, resolutions and findings of fact related to the board’s initial vote last December.

“Located in the Western Economic Opportunity Zone designated in the Antelope Valley Area Plan and the Los Angeles County General Plan, Centennial, in addition to much-needed housing, is projected to create more than 23,000 permanent jobs on site and nearly 25,000 construction jobs,” developers wrote in their release.

They also said Tejon Ranch made a commitment that at least 30% of the construction jobs will be filled by people living in the local area.

Land use

The Centennial project includes about 8.4 million square feet earmarked for a business park on close to 600 acres and 1 million square feet of commercial user space on 102 acres.

About 1.6 million square feet on 110 acres is to be set aside for institutional and civic land uses for things such as schools for higher education, medical facilities and a library.

On 75 acres, about 130,680 square feet will be reserved for recreational and entertainment uses such as space for a clubhouse, farmers market, child care facilities and health clubs.

The project also calls for major utility facilities that would serve the entire community, including two wastewater reclamation facilities and a water treatment facility on 191 acres. Land set aside for schools — including kindergarten through 12th grade schools — encompasses 146 acres.

As for open space, about 5,624 acres of the 12,323-acre site — just over 45 percent — is for open space.

Centennial is to be built in stages over 20 years. It includes the construction of nine villages that will each contain a mix of land uses that enable residents to live near schools, recreation, shopping, neighborhood businesses and services, civic buildings, medical facilities and employment centers.

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