By Nathan Solis
LOS ANGELES (CN) – Environmentalists who say the proposed 12,000-acre Centennial housing development will hurt the undeveloped wilderness in northern Los Angeles County asked a planning commission Wednesday to stop or reduce the scope of the project.
The Centennial project would bring 19,333 homes to the edge of the Mojave Desert and would be a city unto itself, according to the developers who say the project would include schools, an office park, green space, grazing lands, and utility infrastructure.
Developers plan to build the project on the private property of Tejon Ranch, which is comprised of 270,000 acres near Interstate 5 about halfway between LA and Bakersfield. A decade ago, they agreed to conserve 90 percent of the property in an agreement with environmentalists.
But members of the Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission said there are questions left unanswered by developer Tejon Ranch Co.’s application, like meek goals for affordable housing, solar power and electric car charging requirements.
Commissioners also had questions about how many local residents the developer plans to hire to build the development. Commissioner Doug Smith called the developer’s plan to have 10 percent of the workforce come from the area anemic.
“The (Los Angeles County) Board of Supervisors has a 30 percent goal. I think we can do much better than 10 percent,” said Smith.
Commissioner Laura Shell wondered why the developer has no plans to fund the construction for a hospital in the proposed development.
“I sure hope future residents have a bang-up insurance plan to pay for that ambulance transport, or helicopter ride,” said Shell.
Jennifer Hernandez, the attorney representing Tejon Ranch, said the project would be approximately 40 miles from the nearest commuter rail service. That revelation spurred comments about traffic and greenhouse gas emissions on the highways.
LA County resident Snowdy Dodson said the local habitat would not recover from the project.
“I really see this as a precious bit of the environment, a place that mammals and plants depend on,” said Dodson.
Dorothy Johnson, also of LA County, said she has visited nearby Fort Tejon since the 1970s with family. She wanted to know how the developers would get resources to the desert site, including water.
“It’s kind of disturbing,” said Johnson before the commissioners adjourned to give the developers a chance to respond to all their additional questions. “This isn’t a little homestead. You can’t put a water tank on the back of a truck.”
According to the developers, water will come from a municipal water district in nearby Gorman – an unincorporated community of a dozen registered voters and 15 homes on I-5.
The commission will meet again in late August for answers to their questions about the project’s affordable housing and local hiring plans.