For Immediate Release, January 14, 2022

Contact:

J.P. Rose, Center for Biological Diversity, (408) 497-7675, jrose@biologicaldiversity.org
Liv O’Keeffe, California Native Plant Society, (916) 738-7602, lokeeffe@cnps.org

California Judge Revives Lawsuit Against Controversial Tejon Ranchcorp Development

Legal Fight Over Massive L.A. County Project Continues

LOS ANGELES— In a ruling that puts the fate of a destructive development outside Los Angeles once again in question, a judge declared today that two conservation groups are prevailing parties in a successful lawsuit, continuing the legal battle over the Centennial project.

Today’s ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff allows the Center for Biological Diversity and California Native Plant Society to continue challenging the Tejon Ranchcorp proposal to place 57,000 residents on the fire-prone outskirts of the county.

“This fight over a risky plan to build tens of thousands of homes on wildlands that have repeatedly burned is far from over,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center. “The court knows this project ignored the fire risks of building in a high wildfire zone and shirked responsibility to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. These threats to public safety and the environment call the entire Centennial project into question.”

Last year the court ruled against the project and concluded that the environmental review for Centennial violated the California Environmental Quality Act. The ruling noted that the review failed to account for the increased fire risk this sprawling project will impose on the region. Between 1964 and 2015, 31 wildfires larger than 100 acres occurred within five miles of the site; four of the fires burned within the project’s boundaries.

The ruling also found that in approving the 19,000-home project, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors failed to adopt feasible mitigation measures to offset the climate-harming greenhouse gases caused when locating a development that will add 75,000 new vehicle trips per day.

In December, Climate Resolve, which filed a separate legal challenge to the project, reached a settlement with the developer and dismissed its lawsuit. The new ruling determined that, despite that agreement, the challenge by the Center and CNPS remains active.

“We applaud Judge Beckloff’s ruling today, which affirms Centennial’s flawed analysis of wildfire and greenhouse gas impacts,” said CNPS Conservation Program Director Nick Jensen. “These errors epitomize why the project is both bad for public safety and imperiled habitats. Californians shouldn’t have to choose between housing, irreplaceable natural resources and their own safety. This decision points toward a growing body of evidence that we must do better.”

Today’s ruling comes just 10 days after a Northern California judge halted a luxury project in Guenoc Valley because Lake County supervisors had failed to consider wildfire evacuation challenges when approving the sprawl development. The California attorney general joined the Center and CNPS in challenging that project.

The risky Centennial development is not the only source of controversy for Tejon.

The company is allegedly in breach of the historic 2008 “Ranchwide Agreement” with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and other conservation groups. In 2020 the groups sued Tejon after the company withheld payments to the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, which is charged with managing conservation lands on the ranch. The environmental review for Centennial relies on the conservancy to manage conservation lands set aside as mitigation for the development.

Tejon also blacklisted scientists and community members from accessing the ranch and was subject to fines for the illegal killing of at least 11 mountain lions.

Groups, including the Center and CNPS, have long argued that the private “Ranchwide Agreement” does not do enough to protect the ranch, particularly when the state of California has spent millions in taxpayer money to preserve portions of it.

Tejon Centennial wildflowers
A field of wildflowers is seen on the site of the proposed Centennial development in Los Angeles County. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The California Native Plant Society is a nonprofit organization working to save and celebrate California’s native plants and places via plant science, advocacy, education, and horticulture.

 

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