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Environmental groups sue over 12,000-acre Centennial development in northern LA County

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The planned community would bring almost 20,000 new homes to the Antelope Valley

Tejon Ranch
The Centennial community will be constructed over two decades on 12,000 acres of land at Tejon Ranch.
AP Photo/David McNew

Earlier this year, after years of debate, Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors signed off on a contentious development project set to bring nearly 20,000 new homes to the northern edge of the county.

Now, environmental groups are suing over the development, which they argue will worsen pollution, traffic, and urban sprawl in the region.

In a lawsuit filed this morning, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society accuse county officials of mishandling environmental review of the Centennial project at Tejon Ranch, a planned community set to be constructed on 12,000 acres of land in the Antelope Valley.

In the lawsuit, the groups argue that more review was necessary to analyze the project’s impact on auto use in the area, as well as its susceptibility to damage in a large wildfire.

“The county’s decision to support this high-end sprawl development belies common sense and shows a tone-deaf disregard for the real people who would be living in harm’s way,” Native Plant Society director Dan Gluesenkamp said in a statement Tuesday.

The two organizations are asking a judge to overturn the county’s approval of the project, which was finalized in April. They’ve also requested that construction of the project be blocked until a new environmental review is completed.

In a statement Tuesday, the Tejon Ranch Company, which plans to construct the project over a 20-year period, called the Center for Biological Diversity an “extremist environmental organization” and rejected the claims included in the lawsuit.

The company accused the organizations of blocking “an approved development that will bring thousands of much-needed price-attainable homes to Southern California families who are struggling to find housing they can afford.”

Following final county approval of the project in April, the company announced that 18 percent of the 19,333 homes planned in the community would be set aside as affordable housing.

Plans for the project also call for roughly 90 percent of the 240,000 acres surrounding the project site to be conserved as open space.

But some environmental activists argue the greatest environmental issue with the project is its remoteness from more developed parts of LA County. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue this will leave residents with no choice but to regularly drive long distances when going to work or running errands.

That, in turn, could drive up California’s greenhouse gas emissions, they say.

The project was contentious even among members of the County Board of Supervisors. The board approved plans with a pair of 4-1 votes, over the strong objection of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

“I can’t support it,” said Kuehl at a December meeting, pointing to concerns raised by project critics about its impact on commuter patterns and fire risk in the area. “I think that it is not a good idea to build a brand-new city so far away from everything else,” she said.