Tejon Ranch Co. declared victory for its 8,000-acre Grapevine mixed-use development after a Kern County Superior Court judge ruled against an Arizona-based environmental group that dubbed the project “damaging.”
Grapevine at Tejon Ranch is a development expected to feature 12,000 residential units and 5.1 million square feet of commercial space in Kern County just south of the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center.
The county Board of Supervisors approved the project in December 2016 but was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity in January 2017. By 2018, the development was temporarily blocked but re-approved in 2019 with a revised environmental impact report.
Friday’s court ruling by Judge Kenneth Twisselman rejected the environmental group’s attempt to re-litigate the issues it had previously brought up, as well as new claims, and favored the county’s supplemental analysis of an internal capture rate, which is used to estimate trip generation on mixed-use development.
“We are extremely pleased the court thoughtfully and thoroughly considered the issues, found that we had satisfied the court’s original ruling and decided to rule against the claims in this latest lawsuit,” Hugh F. McMahon, executive vice president of real estate at Tejon Ranch Co., wrote in a prepared statement. “Once again CBD tried to hijack and abuse the California Environmental Quality Act in their continued attempts to prevent any and all thoughtful and responsible real estate development in California.”
The environmental group contends Grapevine at Tejon Ranch will destroy habitat for 36 rare plants and animals — including the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard — while blocking the last best wildlife corridor between the San Joaquin Valley, Tehachapi Mountains and Coastal Range.
The ruling is a big loss for people and wildlife, according to J.P. Rose, an urban wildlands attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The court’s opinion doesn’t change the fact that Tejon’s city-sized sprawl development will block a crucial corridor for the critically imperiled San Joaquin kit fox while clogging the I-5 with long-distance commuters and adding to the region’s air pollution burden,” he said in a prepared statement Monday. “The truth is that Tejon has proven itself unable or unwilling to protect Tejon Ranch, and has instead used the Ranchwide Agreement as a shield to pursue damaging development and as a sword to intimidate environmental groups. State and local officials must take an active role in managing the ranch to ensure public access and protection of its immense biodiversity.”
The lawsuit came a month after the group lost another suit challenging Tejon Mountain Village, which is described as “a new conservation-based retreat designed to live in harmony with nature and continue the legacy of this storied place for future generations,” according to the company’s website.