Five Point, developer of the eventual 21,000-home Newhall Ranch community west of Interstate 5 in the Santa Clarita Valley, has reached an out-of-court settlement with several leading environmental groups that had challenged the project over the past two decades.
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, together with the Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper and the California Native Plant Society, issued the following statement Monday:
LOS ANGELES— Conservation groups approved a historic settlement today over the contested Newhall Ranch development that preserves thousands of acres for wildlife, provides millions of dollars to protect the Santa Clara River and requires stringent measures to cut greenhouse gases, including 10,000 solar installations.
The settlement ends a complex legal challenge to the development planned for northwest Los Angeles County. It follows a major California Supreme Court victory against the project by the conservation groups in November 2015.
“No matter what, this massive development was going to break ground in a matter of months, so we’re glad to have these important benefits in place for wildlife, the climate and local communities,” said Aruna Prabhala, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Newhall’s commitment to install thousands of solar panels and cut greenhouse pollution is a radical departure from its previous approach. This should be a climate wake-up call for developers across California.”
To meet its requirements under the settlement to achieve “net zero” climate pollution, Newhall Ranch will include approximately 10,000 solar installations producing approximately 250 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity every year and install 25,000 electric vehicle chargers within the development and across Los Angeles County. Additionally, Newhall agreed to reduce the project’s footprint in the Santa Clara River floodplain and surrounding ridge-tops while also permanently restricting development on more than 9,000 acres of property in Ventura County.
The agreement ensures redesigns to the development to minimize impacts to the unarmored threespine stickleback, an endangered fish, and enhance protections for the San Fernando Valley spineflower, a rare flower found in only one other location on the planet. Nearly an additional 1,200 acres will be reserved for spineflower reintroduction. In total the agreement provides more than $25 million to conserve the Santa Clara River and its watershed, protect threatened and endangered wildlife, combat climate change within the community and preserve the cultural heritage of the area.
“After many years of challenges concerning the health and spiritual wellness of our river, we have come to an agreement which will allow us to work together to protect natural and cultural resources and endangered species along the river,” said Mati Waiya, ceremonial elder of the Santa Clara River Turtle Clan and executive director of the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “This settlement represents a long overdue historical change, establishing the First Nations Ecological and Cultural Conservancy to educate our communities and empower our children in their birthright to a healthy natural world.”
A portion of the funds will be used to establish a permanent endowment for the threatened and endangered wildlife in the greater Santa Clara River ecosystem managed by the conservation groups. The Santa Clara River — the last major free-flowing river in Southern California — is home to many rare species, including the stickleback and the southern steelhead.
“CNPS is proud of the hard work to secure these protections for the environment and future Newhall homeowners,” says CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp. “But this case should send a clear message to developers: the world has changed and needs smart planning. Outdated sprawl development harms the environment, endangers people, is unwanted in 21st century California, and CNPS will continue to fight it.”
Newhall Ranch is a large residential and commercial development along a six-mile stretch of the Santa Clara River. The development was first proposed in the 1980s and was subject to numerous state and federal legal challenges by conservation groups. As part of today’s settlement agreement, the Center for Biological Diversity, California Native Plant Society, and Wishtoyo Foundation and its Ventura Coastkeeper program have agreed to withdraw their ongoing legal challenges to the development.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.