By Nathan Solis
LOS ANGELES – Fighting to keep the pristine wilderness of northern Los Angeles County wild and free, environmentalists sued Wednesday to block a housing development they say will cut through a wildlife passage between two national forests and hurt the local mountain lion population.
The movement of the big cats and other wildlife would be hampered by the Northlake development, a community planned to stretch over 1,330 acres near Castaic Lake State Recreation Area about 45 miles north of downtown Los Angeles in the northern Santa Clarita Valley.
In April, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved the developer’s request to build the 3,150-unit planned community that will rise near Los Padres and Angeles national forests.
But environmentalists say the project will hurt the local watershed and disrupt a wildlife corridor used by mountain lions that pass between the two national forests. In a letter to county officials, the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy called the project “entirely antithetical to modern planning thought, the public good, and to science.”
Plaintiffs the Center for Biological Diversity and Endangered Habitats League also point out that the proposed site for the Northlake development is in a high fire hazard zone according to state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection standards.
In December, after the deadly Woolsey Fire destroyed more than 1,600 buildings and burned nearly 100,000 acres across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, an analysis by LA County found “we increasingly see residential housing growth at the urban-wildland interface which poses greater danger to firefighters and to the residents who live in these extremely high fire severity zones.”
The plaintiffs say the county based its approval of the project on a “legally inadequate” environmental impact report, which accounts for the effect on a multitude of wildlife, including the coastal California gnatcatcher, western spadefoot toad, burrowing owl, southwestern willow flycatcher and many more.
In a statement, Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League said, “This dinosaur of a development will undermine state climate goals, add to the region’s traffic burden, and exacerbate the jobs and housing imbalance in the Santa Clarita Valley.”
Castaic, a small community of 19,000 residents, is not far from the planned Northlake community. Castaic resident Sandia Ennis said at a hearing this past September she has been waiting for some type of development since the county approved a development plan in 1992 for the community.
The developers did not immediately respond to an email for comment on the complaint.
The environmentalists seek a court order blocking the development until an adequate environmental impact report is done. They are represented by John Rose, John Buse and Ross Middlemiss with the Center for Biological Diversity.