Judge Deals Another Blow to Tejon Ranchcorp Project
L.A. County Ordered to Set Aside Approvals for Risky Sprawl Development
March 28, 2023, LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – A judge has ordered Los Angeles County to set aside its approval of Tejon Ranchcorp’s Centennial, a sprawling housing development that would bring 57,000 residents to the fire-prone outskirts of the county. The ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff directs the county to set aside the environmental review and all approvals related to the project.
Last week’s ruling deals a significant setback to the plan and sends a strong message to developers and officials that responsible developments require a thorough analysis of wildfire and other environmental risks.
“The project was conceived decades ago, when we didn’t fully understand the risks of building in fire-prone landscapes, but now we do,” said J.P. Rose, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court got it right by requiring the county to reconsider whether we should really be building a massive sprawl city in a remote place that has burned before and will burn again.”
In 2021 Judge Beckloff concluded that the environmental review for Centennial had violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to assess and mitigate climate impacts and wildfire risks of building 19,000 homes in a remote area 65 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
The project, which is challenged by the Center and the California Native Plant Society, would also destroy thousands of acres of rare wildflower fields and native grasslands.
“As one of the last remaining native grasslands in California, Centennial is also one of those rare places where extensive, colorful shows of wildflowers still remain,” said Nick Jensen, conservation program director at CNPS. “Today, California has more plant species at risk of extinction than any other state in the U.S. We must protect the state’s strong environmental laws to keep sensitive habitats intact.“
There are serious concerns with building massive projects like Centennial in high fire-risk areas. Between 1964 and 2015, more than 30 wildfires larger than 100 acres burned within five miles of the project site — four of them inside the boundaries of the site itself.
Centennial would also bring 75,000 new vehicle trips a day to an area with congested freeways. The greenhouse gas emissions caused by the project would undermine state goals to combat the climate crisis.
The Center and CNPS were represented by Michelle Black, Doug Carstens, and Sunjana Supekar of Carstens, Black & Minteer LLP and Center attorneys J.P. Rose and John Buse.