The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl dissenting) Tuesday to approve the proposed Centennial project – a development which will include more than 19,000 homes in Tejon Ranch.
However, the Board added some conditions including increasing the number of affordable housing units from 15 percent to 18 percent.
More than 100 speakers including business and religious leaders, town council members and private citizens, addressed the board in the nearly three-hour session.
Supporters of the project highlighted what some described as Centennial’s forward-thinking way of addressing issues plaguing the Los Angeles County, such as lack of affordable housing, jobs and healthcare facilities.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the district where Centennial will be located, said the project is “not just another sprawl project.”
“Centennial has worked on good faith,” Barger said. “The project does strike a balance that will benefit generations to come.”
Troy Hooper, board chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the project will bring 23,000 permanent jobs to the area.
“That would give an outstanding boost to L.A. County,” Hooper said, “and a boost to our local economy.”
However, critics of the Centennial project raised environmental concerns such as air quality, increases in greenhouse emissions and risks of wildfires.
Kuehl, the lone dissenting voice, said the proposed development “has an enormous number of things wrong with the project.”
“It’s the aggregate of these issues that really convinces me that it’s a bad idea,” Kuehl said.
Kuehl, whose district was devastated by the recent Woolsey Fire, cited the project’s location, which sits in a high fire danger zone, as one of the many reasons why she couldn’t support the project.
Kuehl also raised doubts regarding the number of affordable housing units and jobs the project is expected to bring in.
“I think it’s a little of pie in the sky,” she said. “That people who live there, are going to work there. But don’t kid yourselves, I’m certain there will be some minimum wage jobs in the project if there are jobs there. And as I look at the way the housing is structured, I don’t know what they mean by affordable housing.”
Barger released a statement following the approval:
“Today’s vote will move the Centennial project forward with key amendments that address fire safety by requiring peer review, by or in coordination with CAL FIRE, at all points of the implementation and the creation of 20,000 new long-term jobs along with a partnership for a job training program, all to ensure that we have a comprehensive and resilient development. This project is historic, as it includes the first project labor agreement (PLA) on a private residential development in Los Angeles County, which applies to all infrastructure facilities. This would not have been possible without the partnership between the County, Centennial and labor partners.
“Over the past 14 years, the Centennial project has gone through extensive public debate and review, including five public hearings and a lengthy and comprehensive EIR process. After three hearings, the Regional Planning Commission recommended support to the Board of Supervisors.
“It is a responsible, forward-thinking project that exceeds the goals of the County’s general plan for smart, sustainable growth and sorely-needed housing stock, including 18 percent of affordable housing units, which is approximately 3,500 units.
“The developer has listened and responded to the community by providing a long list of public facilities, including parks, a civic center, a community resource center, sheriff station, an animal care facility and four new fire stations. Tejon Ranch has set aside 90 percent of its holdings (240,000 acres) for permanent conservation, which will ensure the protection of expansive open space for generations to come.”
“The Centennial Project was approved by the Los Angeles County Planning Commission last summer. It has been in the planning stages for almost two decades. The project is approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles, east of Interstate 5, near the Kern County line. The proposed project will include up to 19,333 dwelling units on 4,987 acres of land designated for residential use.”