BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging Kern County's reapproval of the 8,000-acre Grapevine project. The environmentally damaging development will straddle Interstate 5 and create a new city of 12,000 dwelling units and up to 5.1 million square feet of commercial real estate.
The Center and allies previously challenged this project in January 2017, and a judge blocked the project in 2018 after finding that the project’s environmental review may have underestimated its air quality and public-health impacts. The county revised the environmental review and recently reapproved the project.
The project will destroy habitat for 36 rare plants and animals — including the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard — while blocking the last best wildlife corridor between the San Joaquin Valley, Tehachapi Mountains and Coastal Range.
“This project is bad for people and wildlife,” said Ileene Anderson, a scientist at the Center. “Grapevine will push the imperiled kit fox closer to extinction while clogging the I-5 with even more long-distance commuters and adding to the region’s air pollution burden.”
The environmental analysis failed to incorporate current studies and data regarding the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard. It also does not propose adequate mitigation to offset the damage the project will cause.
Air-quality and toxics experts warned that many of the assumptions in the project’s environmental review and modelling were unsubstantiated, leading the review to downplay the development’s harm to air quality and public health.
“Kern County needs to clearly inform the public how this project will harm communities instead of clinging to unrealistic and unsubstantiated projections,” said Anderson.
Grapevine’s developer, Tejon Ranch Company, has been mired in controversy. The company banned scientists who had questioned Centennial — another massive development proposed by Tejon — from accessing the ranch, even though the company received $15.8 million from California taxpayers to preserve 62,000 acres of these lands.
The Center is represented by Michelle Black and Doug Carstens of the law firm Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer.