Newhall Ranch: On-again-off-again massive development is off again

October 24, 2012
Santa Paula News

The on again off again massive Newhall Ranch development is off again.

Late last month a Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a preliminary decision finding flaws in an environmental review of Newhall Ranch, planned along the Santa Clara River just over the Los Angeles County line. The proposed Newhall Ranch - initially planned for more than 21,000 residential units and five million square feet of commercial space - is located in the extreme east end of the Santa Clara River Valley. 

Supervisor Kathy Long has long been a critic of the development, and she and other elected officials as well as residents have long feared the environmental impacts of the development. Of particular concern is the river that would receive the runoff from the new community that critics have long claimed could wipe out the communities of Piru, Fillmore and Santa Paula in case of severe flooding. 

The Newhall Ranch issue has been controversial since it was first proposed more than a decade ago. The latest court challenge came in June 2011 when several environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the CEQA-mandated California Department of Fish and Game’s analysis of the project’s potential environmental impacts. 

The tentative court decision could put the brakes on the project - which had planned groundbreaking for its first phase in about two years - for up to 17 years for further reviews and studies. 

Although the court’s preliminary decision says several claims have no merit, it did find the environmental review fell short in areas such as its analysis of potential effects on the endangered San Fernando spineflower and steelhead habitat downstream of the project. The court’s preliminary analysis also targeted the EIR on the issue of not making it clear whether or not the large development is even needed. 

The lawsuit against Fish and Game - one of several legal challenges to the project - was filed by the Friends of the Santa Clara River, Center for Biological Diversity, the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, the California Native Plant Society, the Wishtoyo Foundation and Ventura Coastkeeper.

The Santa Clara, Southern California’s last major free-flowing river, travels from Acton to the ocean and is considered one of the most endangered rivers in America.

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