County expected to OK tribal monitoring for eastside development 

James C Ball makes a public comment on his appeal for a six-home development in Canyon Country. Courtesy LA County
James C Ball makes a public comment on his appeal for a six-home development in Canyon Country in December. Courtesy LA County

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is expected Tuesday to approve a six-home development on unincorporated land in Canyon Country, with a condition — a tribal monitor is required to observe grading on building pads, trenching or excavation and any archeological work. 

The county’s Department of Regional Planning actually recommended approval of James C. Ball’s plans to put six homes on separate 2.5-acre lots just south of Sierra Highway and Sand Canyon back in July. 

However, the monitoring stipulation, which was added as a condition under a state law meant to protect culturally sensitive sites, prompted Ball to file an appeal. The stipulation had been added after the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians brought forth concerns. 

Ball has fought with the county for years over the project on a number of fronts, including over his contention that a hillside management permit is unnecessary for the property, which the county successfully defended in a 2013 lawsuit, leading to the requirement for hearings on the relatively small project’s approval.  

Tuesday’s item is an opportunity for county supervisors to sign off on the environmental review of the project and the county’s conditional use permit that calls for monitoring, among other conditions. 

It also could put an end to what Ball referred to as county delays “for years over stupid, stupid stuff,” according to the agenda.  

“I’m 74 years old and I’m trying to build six houses before I’m dead,” Ball told the board during his December appeal for the project, adding the property was completely burned during the Tick Fire in 2019.  

After the blaze, he said he had to argue with Regional Planning over why he shouldn’t have to provide a map of every bush and brush on his 18-acre lot, he said. Ultimately, the county backed off on that request, he added, but he still felt there wasn’t sufficient evidence of significant sensitive cultural artifacts to merit the monitoring. 

Part of Ball’s public comments during his appeal were devoted to explaining his frustration with the requirements needed for his relatively small-scale development. 

“There’s no streams within 5 miles of me, but for one of my parcels, I have to hire a biologist to study the impact of my project on streams,” he said.  

Amy Bodek, county director of regional planning, noted the project would have been exempt from some of the requirements if the plans called for three homes or fewer, but any more than that triggered certain requirements. 

The project’s planning documents note that tribal leaders previously requested the project’s excavation plans and were denied.   

After the December hearing, the Board of Supervisors indicated it planned to take the action listed on Tuesday’s agenda.  

“While I understand the appellant is not happy about the conditions recommended by the Department of Regional Planning,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said during the December appeal hearing, “The (DRP) unanimously, unanimously recommended approval of the project with these conditions.”  

For each of the six contiguous parcels, Ball is proposing a two-story four-bedroom, 2.5-bath, 2,700-square-foot house, which could change a bit based on the developer’s final determinations.  

The combined open space area for the project was calculated as about 14.4 acres of the 868,791-square-foot project site, or approximately 72.3% of the total area.  

The legislation cited by county Regional Planning with respect to tribal monitoring was Assembly Bill 52, which became law July 1, 2015, and “established tribal cultural resources (‘TCR’) as a category of resources for review under (the California Environmental Quality Act) that considers the tribal cultural values, in addition to the scientific and archaeological values when determining impacts and mitigation,” according to the county Board of Supervisors agenda. 

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