A Superior Court judge issued a preliminary ruling last week saying The Newhall Land and Farming Co. hadn’t done enough to explain how it intends to protect an endangered flower as it starts to develop the Newhall Ranch community west of Interstate 5 in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups including SCOPE and the Friends of the Santa Clarita River filed suit after the California Department of Fish and Game issued permits based on the developer’s plans to preserve the San Fernando Valley spineflower and other endangered and threatened species as enumerated in the project’s environmental impact reports.
Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer expressed the company’s displeasure with the judge’s opinion Thursday.
“We are disappointed that the Los Angeles County Superior Court preliminary ruling was that the California Department of Fish and Game’s permit issued in December of 2010 regarding Newhall Ranch was based on insufficient analysis,” Lauffer said in a statement. “We believe that the decade-long environmental review process, which resulted in significant additional riparian land and spineflower preserves, was very thorough and detailed. We are working with the Department of Fish and Game to fully assess the court’s initial ruling and to review all the legal options.”
The court is expected to issue a final ruling next month. If it sticks with its current opinion, it could send Newhall Land back to the drawing board for a rewirte of a portion of the “biological” section of the Newhall Ranch EIR.
In the works for more than a decade, the Newhall Ranch project is envisioned as a 20,660-home community. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave Newhall Land the go-ahead to start building the first two of five phases earlier this year.
The Center for Biological Diversity and its partners have sued over those approvals, as well.
At the time, in consideration of the various lawsuits, Newhall Land officials said they didn’t expect to start shoveling dirt for another 18 to 24 months.
About the San Fernando Valley Spineflower
Common Name: San Fernando Valley Spineflower
Scientific Name: Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina
Status: Endangered (State of California)
Federal Register: None
Comments: The San Fernando Valley Spineflower, aka San Bernardino Spineflower, an annual herb, is a dicot in the family Polygonaceae and a member of the Coastal Sage Scrub community. It occurs in sandy soil and blooms with white and yellow flowers. It was believed extinct until 1999 when 10,000 examples were discovered in the Newhall Ranch project area of the Santa Clarita Valley, between Interstate 5 and the Ventura County border, and on the Ahmanson Ranch in Ventura County. The California Department of Fish and Game listed flower in June 2000 as a candidate species and on Aug. 23, 2001, as an endangered species, pursuant to Section 1904 (Native Plant Protection Act of 1977) and Section 2074.2 and 2075.5 (California Endangered Species Act of 1984) of the Fish and Game Code. It does not have a federal designation.
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