Reflections on the L.A. County Centennial Decision
By Nick Jensen
Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took a momentous step backwards in approving the Centennial Specific Plan. By voting in favor of one of the largest new development projects in California history, Supervisors Katherine Barger, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Janice Hahn, and Hilda Solis put the interests of Tejon Ranch Company and its Wall Street investors ahead of the needs of local communities and the protection of irreplaceable habitats. These four supervisors chose corporate greed, increased traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and leapfrog development over improving existing communities, and saving wildlife and wildflowers. They chose to ignore the fact that future residents of this far-flung new city will face the very real risks of wildfire, earthquakes, air pollution, and illness caused by valley fever. They chose unimaginative 1980’s style sprawl over dense, affordable, transit-oriented modern development.
Be depressed, discouraged and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics — but never give up.
As a graduate student, I spent more than 200 days on Tejon Ranch documenting its remarkable diversity. Many times I sat atop Blue Ridge, staring down on the proposed site of Centennial, trying to envision what a city of nearly 60,000 people would look like in this location. At that time, I could not believe such a fate could befall this remote and beautiful valley. Over the past couple months, as it became increasingly clear that the supervisors would approve Centennial, I tried to prepare myself for today. Not surprisingly, I am shocked — this decision stings, and I am left with so many questions. Why was Sheila Kuehl the only supervisor that was able to see through Tejon’s smokescreen? Why did the rest of the supervisors ignore the concerns of thousands of Californians, state agencies, the Los Angeles Times, academic researchers, and so many others? How can Los Angeles County claim to be a leader in combating climate change while approving a project that will negate their ambitious efforts in other parts of the county?
At this moment, I am reminded of the inspirational words of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, who almost single-handedly is credited with galvanizing the fight to save the Everglades from certain destruction. She said, “Be depressed, discouraged and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics — but never give up.”
And so today is an opportunity to be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed. It is also time to catch our breaths from this body-blow, redouble our efforts, and resolve to never give up.
Just a few minutes ago I sat down and watched a video of glorious photos taken over the past 30 years by professional photographer extraordinaire, Rick Dickey. Centennial will impact all of the habitat and beautiful scenery in this video. As I choked back a few tears, admiring Rick’s art, I felt a resolve to continue this fight. I encourage you to take a few minutes and follow suit.
With the start of the 30-day period to challenge the approval of Centennial, it is safe to say that this campaign is far from over. If you haven’t already, please take action right now by adding your name to the petition to save the super bloom.
Who is with me? Onward!
Video by Richard Dickey
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.