City to cite CEQA in litigation against Camp Scott opening

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

City of Santa Clarita officials provided further clarification on the announcement they made on Tuesday regarding Camp Scott, saying the next day that the city would be filing California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, litigation.  

CEQA is designed, according to the law’s website, to inform government decision makers and the public about the potential environmental effects of proposed activities and to prevent significant, avoidable environmental damage. 

“As we promised, last night, the Santa Clarita City Council approved a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit against the county of Los Angeles,” said Mayor Laurene Weste in a statement distributed on Wednesday. “We will not allow the county to ignore state law when it comes to the approval of Camp Scott as a permanent juvenile detention facility.” 

With Supervisor Kathryn Barger providing the only dissenting vote last week, the county supervisors’ motion indicates that the actions taken by the Board of Supervisors are not subject to CEQA, according to city staff. City staff on Tuesday had said they would be filing litigation but did not specify what kind of legal claim they would be making.    

“We intend to uphold the letter of the law and make sure that a proper CEQA review is completed. Camp Scott is located in a severe fire hazard area on a road with only one way in and one way out,” Weste added. “It is not a safe or suitable location for this use.”  

Opposition to the plan from local residents and politicians began to arise soon after it was originally announced in May of last year by the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council-Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Subcommittee.  

The Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously last year to oppose the reopening of Camp Scott as the housing site for approximately 150 youth juveniles convicted of violent crimes such as assault, rape and even murder, among other severe charges.  

Ultimately, while Camp Scott received a “scorecard” equal to or even worse than other sites, scoring the worst possible in the fire/flood danger category, the Bouquet Canyon camp, along with a handful of others, were placed late last year on a short list for future sites.   

“Camp Scott is in an extreme fire hazard zone and just downstream from the nearly 100-year-old Bouquet Dam,” read the city’s statement regarding the pending litigation. “Camp Scott would be inundated with approximately 26 feet of water within 50 minutes of a breach in the dam.” 

No move-in date has been established for Camp Scott due to a need for renovations at the local site, but juvenile offenders are scheduled to be moved into Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu — which will house some of the violent youths — starting May 1.    

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