Flanked by protesters and government leaders alike, Mayor Laurene Weste announced Monday that the city of Santa Clarita had officially filed a lawsuit against L.A. County over the reopening of Camp Scott as the future permanent housing location for the county’s most violent, male youth offender population.
Citing environmental and safety concerns for both the nearby residents as well as the proposed Camp Scott population, Weste said during a press conference held just outside of Camp Scott’s gates that the lawsuit, if successful, will require L.A. County to follow the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
The approved motion from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors authorizes the transition of the county’s male youth population of violent offenders to Camp Scott without a CEQA study having been yet completed. Although county officials were instructed to complete and return with the finalized environmental report in the coming months, the Santa Clarita lawsuit would force the Department of Juvenile Justice to complete a CEQA compliance report before any “alternative facilities are dismissed,” Weste said.
“The city remains unwavering and will remain vigilant on the issue, (standing) firmly that CEQA does apply to the actions taken by the Board of Supervisors, especially given the dangerous environmental factors affecting Camp Scott, and the county’s unmistakable commitment and formal decision to proceed with repurposing the use of Camp Scott,” Weste said during the press conference at the camp, which previously housed non-violent offenders and was closed in 2020.
According to the state’s website, CEQA requires state and local agencies to “disclose to the public the significant environmental effects of a proposed discretionary project” unless the project is deemed otherwise exempt.
Echoing the sentiments expressed in the past by the critics of repurposing Camp Scott, Weste said that the city will fight to show the danger in housing the DJJ population downstream from the 100-year-old Bouquet Canyon Dam and in an area known to be at high risk for wildfires.
“The inmates would have to be separated by threat level placed on these buses and then be secured,” said Weste, referring to a hypothetical natural disaster. “Plus, there was only one way and one way out of this facility. The time it would take to evacuate the inmates would put them in extreme peril.”
The press conference on Monday regarding the announcement was attended by members of the Santa Clarita City Council, as well as representatives from county, state and federal offices. Speaking with and surrounding the dignitaries were members of the media, as well as dozens of local residents holding signs that bore phrases such as “Right Idea, Wrong Location” and “No prison near our children’s schools.”
The filing of the lawsuit comes roughly a month after a motion was passed in a 4-1 vote by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors — with 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, being the only dissenting vote — ordering county staff and the L.A. County Probation Department to begin transitioning over the Department of Juvenile Justice’s entire male youth population to Camp Scott, located on Bouquet Canyon Road, and Campus Kilpatrick in Malibu.
“I’m not surprised that the city of Santa Clarita is challenging the Board of Supervisors’ decision,” Barger said in a statement sent to The Signal on Monday. “I voted against housing juvenile offenders at Camp Scott because I backed the recommendation made by our Probation Department’s experts. These are the individuals hired by our board to oversee and help these youth, and they clearly came to the conclusion that Nidorf Juvenile Hall (in Sylmar) is the better option.”
“This matter continues to be very important to me,” Barger added. “I will closely track the discussion and developments set in motion by the city’s lawsuit.”
The two sites will share the county’s male 18- to 25-year-old population, with Camp Scott being able to house, as it presently stands, approximately 120 youths and Campus Kilpatrick housing roughly 40. However, being that no move-in date has yet been announced for the Bouquet Canyon facility, local residents and government officials have said they will continue to advocate for a new location or facility to be selected.
“Mark my words: Camp Scott is not safe or a suitable location for these men for the sake of our residents, county probation staff and inmate population,” Weste concluded her speech by saying. “Another location must be selected.”