Back in 2003, Los Angeles County officials approved a development plan known as the Newhall Ranch project, which would lead to the creation of a city of 60,000 residents in the northwest part of the county. At the time the project was delayed due to bankruptcy issues with the developer and a lawsuit by creditors against a firm of investors that eventually reorganized. But the Newhall Ranch development is currently facing another obstacle: litigation from environmental and Native American groups. Why the opposition? The groups are against the construction of 21,000 homes on the undeveloped land due to violations of environmental codes and the destruction of Native American burial sites. The California Department of Fish and Game is being sued for issuing the necessary permits in a case that was filed this week in the San Francisco County Superior Court. The permits were originally granted on December 3rd. The LA Times reports:
“Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan said he could not comment because the department had not yet seen the lawsuit, but department officials had said earlier that the plan will preserve 70% of the nearly 14,000-acre area as natural open space. That space is aimed at protecting 76% of the rare San Fernando Valley spineflower and 93% of the Santa Clara River, the longest and wildest river in Southern California. Developers must also establish a $6-million endowment for preservation efforts. ‘Hundreds of people, including biologists, botanists, hydrologists and other scientists, worked together to shape this biologically innovative project,’ said Ed Pert, South Coast regional manager. The coalition, however, says the plan did not go far enough. Fish and Game is permitting the filling of much of the Santa Clara River and its floodplain, the concrete lining of 20 miles of tributary streams, desecration of Native American burial sites and sacred places, and the destruction of a quarter of the spineflower habitat, the lawsuit says.”
The Friends of the Santa Clara River, the California Native Plant Society and the Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper are other plaintiffs in the case. John Buse, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, stated that “It is appalling that the Department of Fish and Game, the trustee for all of California's wildlife, approved ecological destruction on this scale. Far less damaging options were available, but the department brushed them aside.” For more on the litigation, you can see a press release from the Center of Biological Diversity here.