A Reckoning for Centennial… and California

Photo: Nick Jensen

Last week, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) voted 4-1 to recommend that the board of supervisors approve the Centennial Specific Plan.

CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst, Nick Jensen, attended the meeting and provided testimony along with dozens of CNPS and community members, and representatives from our partner organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife. Following is a summary from Nick on the vote and the important next steps we plan to take.

Thanks to everyone who has tracked this issue, made calls, wrote comment letters, and supported this important conservation effort. Special thanks to CNPS members from the Los Angeles-Santa Monica Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, South Coast, Channel Islands, and Riverside-San Bernardino Mountains Chapters that participated in a pre-hearing rally and provided testimony in opposition to Centennial.

What does the decision tell us?

The RPC’s decision is a major step backward for Los Angeles County. The commissioners overlooked the facts showing that Centennial is a poorly conceived leapfrog development. It utilizes antiquated planning principals that will result in vast habitat destruction while endangering human lives.

With their vote, the commissioners have ignored the concerns of thousands of citizens from around the country who submitted written comment letters, called their elected representatives, and attended hearings to provide oral testimony. In recent months, CNPS has detailed the reasons why we think this project is the wrong vision for Los Angeles County. These include impacts to native grassland and wildflower habitats, the inadequacy of proposed mitigation, wildfire and earthquake risk, and traffic-related greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Unfortunately, rather than addressing these concerns last week, the commissioners seemed more focused on tweaking elements of the project. These changes ranged from important issues like the percentage of affordable housing to more banal issues like which landfills trash collected on Centennial would be delivered to. Not once did the RPC address whether this project is the right type of project for Los Angeles County, a county that has recently emphasized the importance of sustainability. Centennial voids progressive efforts to make Los Angeles County a sustainable place to live, where affordable housing is built close to job centers and mass transportation infrastructure. It does nothing to solve problems that could be alleviated by investing in existing communities. Instead, it creates a new environmentally destructive city in the middle of nowhere.

The sole voice of reason and dissent was Commissioner, Laura Shell. Shell, appointed by District 3 supervisor, Sheila Kuehl was the only no vote in the RPC’s 4-1 decision to approve Centennial.

What’s next?

Centennial now heads to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors will hold at least two hearings late this year, and possibly early in 2019, during which there will be additional opportunities for public testimony. We anticipate a decision on Centennial within the next six months.

Our game plan

CNPS and a broad coalition of environmental and community groups will be working hard to ensure the supervisors reject Centennial. We’re asking them to make the correct decision for the biodiversity and the citizens of Los Angeles County by voting no on Centennial. We will continue to remind them that their primary responsibility is to do what is right for the county, not what is most profitable for a Wall Street Corporation that stands to reap billions of dollars in profits from Centennial.

What you can do

  1. If you live in Los Angeles County call or write your board of supervisors representative and ask them to oppose the Centennial Specific Plan. Get your supervisor’s contact info here.
  2. If you live outside of Los Angeles County call or write as many of the Supervisors as you possibly can.
  3. If you a limited amount in time, call Supervisors Hahn and Solis first. Tell them that you are a concerned citizen of California and ask them to vote no on Centennial. Given the scale of its impacts, Centennial is a project of statewide significance.
  4. Everyone, not just residents of Los Angeles County, write Letters to the Editor or Op-Eds for your local newspapers stating why you think Centennial is the wrong vision for Los Angeles County and California.
  5. Share CNPS social media posts on Centennial widely.
  6. Ask your family members and friends to take the actions detailed above.

If you would like any assistance with any of these actions please contact Nick Jensen, njensen@cnps.org.

Nick Jensen, CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst

Nick Jensen is a conservation analyst for the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) in Southern California and a fellow of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Jensen recently earned his PhD in botany at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG)/Claremont Graduate University. As a graduate student he produced the first Flora of Tejon Ranch (* in preparation) and studied evolutionary patterns in perennial jewelflowers.  For more information please contact him at Nick Jensen at njensen@cnps.org.

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