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Environmentalists sue to block a new city in L.A. County

Santa clarita A coalition of environmental and Native American groups has sued the California Department of Fish and Game over permits issued to build 21,000 homes on Los Angeles County's last major tract of undeveloped land.

The coalition, which filed the suit Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleges that fish and game officials violated state environmental codes in granting permits Dec. 3 for the controversial Newhall Ranch development.

“It is appalling that the Department of Fish and Game, the trustee for all of California's wildlife, approved ecological destruction on this scale,” said John Buse, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs. “Far less damaging options were available, but the department brushed them aside.”

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 state's fish and game department has once again endorsed this same development that will threaten the region's water supply, worsen air pollution and cause further gridlock on our highways,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, another of the plaintiffs.

Other plaintiffs are the Friends of the Santa Clara River, the California Native Plant Society and the Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper.

Planned for more than a decade, Newhall Ranch would create a city of some 60,000 residents in the rugged hills of northwest Los Angeles County.The county approved the development plan in 2003. The project was delayed when falling land prices pushed the developer, LandSource Communities Development, into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008.

The bankruptcy caused CalPERS, the state employees pension fund, to lose a $970-million investment in the company. The reorganized firm, which includes a 15% holding by Miami-based building giant Lennar Corp., emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. Creditors filed a lawsuit in August alleging fraud in LandSource's $1.4-billion debt deals.

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-- Associated Press

Photo: The Santa Clara River, which snakes for nearly 100 miles from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Ventura County coast, is one of two California waterways that rank among the nations most threatened, according to the Washington-based American Rivers group. Part of the Santa Clara, which is the longest and wildest river remaining in Southern California, would be paved over by the massive Newhall Ranch project and other urban development proposed for the Santa Clarita Valley. Credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

 
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Yay! Another future-meth-slum when the economy inevitably can't support the price of gas and water and long commutes to huge homes in flood plains.

That is... if you can get people to buy the homes in the first place. How many vacant/foreclosed homes are there within 50 miles of LA right now

If they would only let them build a casino there would be no problem!

"Developers must also establish a $6-million endowment for preservation efforts."

Yeah, right. The Easter Bunny will arrive in his sled and deliver the cash, about the same time as the Tijuana River freezes over.

This current developer and its owners were the beneficiaries of the Chapter 11 Plan which obliterated CALPERS $1+ Billion investment in this land. Among the grotesquely obnoxious provisions in that plan was a detailed provision stating that the developer is not responsible for complying with any promises previously made to state and local government agencies, releasing the developer from all obligations of its predecessor, and issuing an injunction against anyone suing this developer to enforce any of its predecessor's obligations, including those which arose out of a plea bargain in a criminal prosecution of the prior developer for violating the endangered species laws.

This developer is majority owned by a group of hedge funds and speculators who don't give a rat's patootie about California's natural environment, let alone the humans who will be impacted by the horrific traffic problems this project will create.

California Fish & Game's employees and commissioners have been profoundly morally corrupted by these hedge funds, speculators and professional developers. Shame on Fish & Game.

Fish & Game's employees and commissioners are as corrupt as the PUC functionaries who allowed the San Bruno pipeline explosion. Fish & Game's employees and commissioners are as morally corrupt as the employees of the Minerals Management Service which allowed the badly designed oil well in the Gulf to blow up. I hope Governor Brown replaces every Fish & Game employee and commissioner he legally can. If he doesn't, California will know that he, too, is a tool of the hedge funds, speculators and Wall Street.

Yes, just what we need. Another tract home development in the middle of nowhere with more commuters spending their lives on the freeways driving to and from work. Seriously, haven't we had enough of the 'we just have to build over everything to create jobs' attitude? Overbuilding in distant areas is a poor way to stimulate the economy or help a city thrive.

Quick - let's shut down a jobs-producing, business-building, tax-raising development so we can protect the freakin' delta smelt or whatever these eco-religious people are freaked out about.

I'd much rather stay in an economic meltdown and have the voters vote in a tax increase when more than half of these economic parasites pay no taxes at all.

You eco-zealots need to get a life.

So sad, that one of the very, very few last Los Angeles area ecological preserves might undergo more housing development. Its always about money, and we are losing all the beauty of our great state. I hope the environmentalists win this one.

I need econazis - they provide jobs, rational thinking and last a purpose for rich entitlement individuals that carry on the 'kennedy' tradition 'What do I do for a living? Nothing...I'm a kennedy.

This is crazy, just what we need ANOTHER development! Los Angeles is already crowded enough and with all the track housing built in Riverside county, haven't they seen the throusands of sale & forclosure signs that line the streets there???!! What are they thinking! And the developer is allowed to come out of bankruptcy scott free and continue this project to lose even more investor money? Just crazy!

Why in the world would there be a need for 21,000 houses in the middle of nowhere. There's already a foreclosure crisis, plus the recession itself. Who would be buying these homes? It looks like they want to build a ghost town.

The Santa Clara River Valley is one of the most scenic corridors left in Southern California-- especially in the Spring when the hills turn a verdant green and the citrus trees are in full bloom. Dubbed the "Heritage Valley" by L.A./Ventura County boosters, it's loaded with sweeping vistas, old railroads, charming fruit stands, hidden canyons and oak woodlands. It is what the magic of the California Dream was made of. We should collectively make sure that this rare treasure is fundamentally protected and, in the same breath, allow limited development of ranch properties and homes on acreage-- not strip malls, WalMarts, Section 8 housing, etc. Let us preserve this landscape for future generations, forever...

Again, people, this is a desert. We are running out of water, and the "Stockton By-Pass" will never be built, due to funding and innumerable environmental issues. Read the study by the Center for Immigration Studies and other articles for background. WE DON'T HAVE THE WATER, SIMPLE AS THAT!


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