New City North of LA Still in the Works

Plan is expected to include measures to protect land in Kern and LA counties

Dreary as LA's housing market may be, efforts to build big continue.

The developer of Tejon Ranch, which could one day include a new city 60 miles north of Los Angeles with more than twice the population of Beverly Hills, is working on a joint plan scheduled to be released next month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The plan is expected to address how the developer would protect California Condors and many other plants and animals in the area.

Plan approval is necessary for the development of Tejon Mountain Village, a small portion of the larger master-planned project. Tejon Mountain Village is planned to include no more than 3,450 units on the Kern County portion of the ranch and would likely house about 8,000 people.

Though the name "Tejon Ranch" may not be familiar to many Los Angelenos, anyone who's traveled The Grapevine up the Tejon Pass has likely seen the land. Even in a state as expansive as California, the Tejon Ranch holdings are massive, so large that the sum of its acreage hardly communicates its vastness.

The ranch is about 270,000 acres, which works out to about 85 percent the size of the City of Los Angeles, a swath of land, bordered to the west by Interstate 5 that stretches from the northern end of Los Angeles County into Kern County toward Bakersfield.

Back in 2003, the company that owns Tejon Ranch suggested the creation of a city of as many as 70,000 people, almost twice the size of Culver City, or Beverly Hills, much to the disappointment of many environmental protection groups, some of which have since worked out their differences with the developer.

In 2008, a plan to preserve more than 240,000 acres of the ranch was announced and, as a part of it, the developer seeks to be permitted to develop 23,000 residential units in the part of the project called Centennial in Los Angeles County.

Some reports suggest that a development of such a size would still result in the creation of a city of 70,000 or more.

With the development located about an hourlong drive from LA without traffic (up and down the steep grade of the Tejon Pass), that could end up being one of the city's more hellacious commutes.

Some environmental groups remain opposed.

The Bakersfield Californian reported this month that the director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Urban Wildlands Program, Adam Keats, expressed concern for the location of the planned development in an area traversed by condors, which are protected. "With only 200 or 300 condors existing on this plant, they're going to stick a housing development right in the linchpin," he said.

Barry Zoeller, a representative of Tejon Ranch, told The Californian that the "vast majority" of critical condor habitat would remain untouched and that nothing that results in the death of a condor would be permitted.

The Los Angeles Times Greenspace blog echoed similar sentiments this week.

Ventura County Star writer Zeke Barlow, in a story on a team working to save the California condors, recently wrote that "though there are now 330 condors among captive and wild populations, up from just 22 in 1982, it costs more than $5 million a year to run the program. That figure is likely to increase as the populations get bigger and the pressures from new development and other issues arise."

-- TJ Sullivan

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