The Board of Supervisors certified environmental impact reports for two long-debated Newhall Ranch developments Tuesday, paving the way for nearly 5,500 new homes and apartments and 2 1/2 million square feet of retail and office space in the western Santa Clarita Valley.
The vote on each project was 4-0, with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl abstaining.
Mission and Landmark villages — the first two phases of the larger master-planned Newhall Ranch community — will include a total of 621 single- family homes, 4,878 multi-family units and roughly 770 acres of open space and parks.
In addition to extensive retail development and office buildings, each village will have its own elementary school and fire station. Mission Village will also have a library.
Environmentalists concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and potential harm to a native species of fish took their fight against the developments to the California Supreme Court, which rejected elements of the initial environmental impact reports in 2015. That sent developers back to the drawing board despite earlier court and county approvals.
The developer, Five Point Holdings, has since committed to “Net Zero Newhall,” offering a plan it says will offset 100 percent of the projects’ greenhouse gas emissions. Specifics include electric vehicle charging stations in every home, subsidies for EV purchases, solar energy generation and transit subsidies.
“This is a plan that will produce about 130,000 jobs, thousands of well- needed homes and have zero impact on greenhouse gas emission,” said Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO of Five Point Holdings.
The revised EIRs also lay out construction methods designed to protect the unarmored three spine stickleback. Bridges have been redesigned away from the Santa Clara River as the company backed off its original plan to relocate the fish.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife certified the revised environmental analysis in June, re-approving the plan.
Dozens of residents and business owners showed up to express their support of the projects.
Holly Schroeder, CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation, urged the board to approve Newhall Ranch “not just because the project is going to provide the housing that L.A. County so desperately needs,” but because it would draw national attention as a model of “how to build a sustainable city of the future.”
Others predicted that the development would make the valley a hub for tech companies, including those focused on electric vehicle development.
William Allen of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation called the project “game-changing,” telling the board that it would be “a powerful engine for prosperity countywide.”
But many residents said the project would damage air and water quality and overwhelm existing infrastructure.
David Warren, who identified himself as a Sierra Club member, said the club continues to oppose the Newhall Ranch developments because of the impact on the Santa Clara River.
“People are strongly opposed,” Warren told the board, saying that many in opposition couldn’t take the day off work to speak out and criticizing the developer for buying lunch to encourage its supporters to turn out.
During a nearly 90-day public comment period, written comments in opposition to the two projects outnumbered those in favor by nearly 14 to one, according to board documents. However, more than 90 percent of those opposed sent in form letters.
Darrell Park, who ran against now-Supervisor Kathryn Barger for the Fifth District seat, claimed the developer hadn’t done enough to mitigate environmental concerns.
“It has not met the Supreme Court’s requirements,” Park said.
Kuehl applauded the work to mitigate greenhouse gases but said she remained concerned about the project’s impact on air quality. She also said she wanted to see development in already built areas, rather than on scarce open space and agricultural land.
“I do not support this project,” Kuehl said. “I never have.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Fifth District that includes Newhall Ranch, said she believed the development would “be a model not just in the state, but … in the nation.”
She pointed to the same developer’s work in creating the planned community of Valencia decades ago as evidence of its thoughtful approach.
“Newhall Ranch has been a long time coming,” Barger said.
Five Point Holdings, an Orange County-based spin-off of Lennar Corp., went public in May with a $294 million stock offering. The company trades under the ticker FPH on the New York Stock Exchange.
–– City News Service