For Immediate Release, January 13, 2021
J.P. Rose, Center for Biological Diversity, (408) 497-7675, firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge Blocks Los Angeles Development That Threatens Local Mountain Lions
Development Would Have Bulldozed Pristine Stream, Evicted Rare Wildlife
LOS ANGELES— In a victory against a destructive project threatening local mountain lions, a judge issued a ruling Monday blocking the 1,300-acre Northlake development. Proposed on fire-prone wildlands in northern Los Angeles County, the development would have imperiled rare wildlife and paved over a pristine stream that flows into the Santa Clara River.
In response to a lawsuit brought by conservation organizations, Judge Richard L. Fruin, Jr. found that the development’s environmental review failed to consider less harmful proposals that would have avoided destruction of Grasshopper Creek and habitat for vulnerable wildlife.
The ruling also held that the environmental review failed to account for or minimize impacts on one of the region’s last remaining populations of the western spadefoot toad, as well as on several rare plants.
“We’re pleased the court sided with science and rejected this destructive boondoggle of a project,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that sued. “Our elected officials should never have approved this outdated proposal to bulldoze a stream to build sprawl development in fire-prone wildlands. Communities and local wildlife deserve better.”
Northlake would have buried 3.5 miles of Grasshopper Creek, a pristine stream that feeds into Southern California’s last free-flowing river, the Santa Clara. The site is also a designated “very high fire hazard” severity zone, and multiple wildfires have burned the proposed project footprint over the past few years.
The Northlake development would also block a wildlife corridor, which recent photos show is being used by imperiled mountains lions. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority captured the photos as part of their work to enhance habitat in the corridor. Roads and developments like Northlake are causing genetic isolation among local mountain lions, which are now a “candidate species” under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
"As a result of this ruling, the Board of Supervisors can now refuse to approve a dangerous project that paves over the site’s most important biological resources,” said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League.
The court found the key portions of the development’s environmental approvals were “fatally flawed” under the California Environmental Quality Act and determined that the project approvals must be voided.
L.A. County Supervisors Hahn, Barger and Solis voted in favor of the development last year, while Supervisor Kuehl opposed it.
The lawsuit was filed in May 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity, which also represents the Endangered Habitats League. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy filed an administrative appeal against the development, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted a letter to the county concluding that the environmental review was deficient.
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.
Endangered Habitats League is a Southern California conservation organization dedicated to ecosystem protection and sustainable land use for the benefit of all the region’s inhabitants.