Reflections on the L.A. County Centennial Decision

Tejon Ranch
Scenes on and adjacent to the proposed Centennial development site at Tejon Ranch.

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, 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.

9 Comments

  1. Those with sensitivity and love of beauty and nature have no place in a world that is infested with greed and corruption. LA County is run buy a collection of plunderers who, despite their official designations as ‘liberal politicians’, are no better than the Plunderer in Chief in the White House. Money is the only thing they worship and they do not care about the futures of their constituents. Efforts to separate the control of big monied interest over the interest of the general population are fruitless because we live in a society that equates financial gain over all other concerns. I get notifications for ‘saving’ this or ‘saving’ that all the time on my Facebook newsfeed but nothing gets saved because the general public has been desensitized and overwhelmed at the shear volume of destruction that the wealthy classes impose on the world. As former President Jimmy Carter said just the other day, in America we now live in a Oligarchy and the policies of all of our governmental agencies are controlled by corporate and monied entities. Is there a way to fight the destruction of our Democracy and the influence of powerful interests who would destroy every inch of our natural world? I fear not.

    1. I have news for you. The worst run places in the country are run by “progressives” and “liberals.” They micromanage rural America; and make ranchers and farmers lives miserable. They use ballot measures to mandate unscientific animal housing in defiance of animal science and range management professionals. They plunder because all progressives care about is *money.*

      Perhaps barring politicians from accepting donations or soliciting for charities from those who have proposals before them will help. It is no accident that it is almost impossible for the average person to contact the mayor’s office, and that the city is awash in typhus, typhoid fever, homeless people, garbage and rats. Mayor Garcetti and his favored developers have a new housing and services building for *300* homeless at a cost of $170,000 per person. The city and county have reached the stage where it would actually make sense to follow the Medieval method of clearing garbage and rats – practiced in NYC well into the 19th C – of turning pigs out to clean up the garbage and eat any rat that didn’t move fast enough.

      I find it ludicrous and insulting that those who claim to be “progressive” and wish to save wildlife, habitat, and open space are the very same people demanding that we allow anyone who wishes to do so to enter and live in the US – apparently progressives do not study finite resources, including water and land.

      1. Yeah, I hear rural America is doing quite well under Trump. Just ask all those farmers who are losing their farms due to the ridiculous ‘trade wars’ and tariffs that idiot is imposing, not to mention the fact that farmers are suffering with the obvious climate change problem that Trump is ignoring. Rural America has been voting Republican for decades and it’s been a disaster. The immigration situation has nothing to do with saving the Tehon region from greedy developers, immigrates couldn’t afford to by homes there. Your politics of division will not solve any problems and Republicans are the very worst stewards of the land. They strip away all environmental protections including air and water regulations and allow industry to pollute at every turn. So your screed is completely irrelevent to the conversation, which is about CONSERVATION.

  2. Unbelievable. I will watch this site for actions we in other parts of California can take to stop this travesty.

  3. The Board of Supervisors can be overturned by a successful Referendum.
    It would halt the project and let the voters decide in the 2020 election.
    This has been successfully done in San Diego with the Newland Sierra development project.

Post A Comment