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The Urban Program at Environment Now seeks to restore sustainability in Los Angeles urban areas by catalyzing activities to preserve environmentally sensitive open spaces and force environmental factors into the decision making process for Southern California. Projects include:

  • Establishing the Tejon Working Group, to engage good science that will build a solid foundation for planning efforts in southern Kern County and northern Los Angeles County.
  • Creating an Infill Analysis Methodology Study that seeks to establish a template that will assist jurisdictions in efforts to assess their infill potential, thereby limiting sprawl development in ever more scarce greenspaces.
  • Participating in efforts to acquire lands in the Baldwin Hills region of Los Angeles that will eventually contribute to the completion of a world-class regional park.

 

Tejon Ranch Restoration Project

Project Context and Background
Tejon Ranch encompasses approximately 270,000 acres, (over 430 square miles), and is as large an area as the City of Los Angeles. The Tejon Ranch is one of those rare and unique properties that is more than a local wetland or recreational resource. Indeed, some would argue it is more than an intact ecosystem. It is truly the last remaining glue that binds the Sierra Nevada to the Coastal Ranges, the High Desert to the Central Valley and the Los Padres and Angeles National Forests. Preserving this varied landscape is all the more urgent in light of the Tejon Ranch Company's stated goal to connect Bakersfield to Los Angeles with new cities and resort communities consisting of large-scale residential, commercial and industrial development. Future development plans for the Tejon Ranch are identified in the business plans of the ranch's owner, TRC. While TRC has refused to disclose long-term development plans for Tejon Ranch, their 2001 annual report identifies three initial focus areas for development.

  • Interstate 5 Corridor: Highway Commercial and Industrial Uses along I-5 at the foot of the Grapevine. This includes the recently-approved expansion of the Tejon Industrial Complex, a matrix of industrial warehouses, gas stations, truck stops, motels and restaurants that will eventually reach 20 million square feet, and destroy almost 1500 acres of prime farmland, in the heart of a designated agricultural preserve and miles from any town. This would also be the site of an inland trucking port, generating thousands of diesel truck trips per year in an area already designated one of the worst air quality regions in the nation.
  • Los Angeles Suburban Residential: A massive 23,000-unit subdivision in northern LA County. In September 2002 TRC submitted plans for a 12,000-acre subdivision stretching from the Antelope Valley westward along Hwy. 138, sixty miles north of Los Angeles. The plan calls for 23,000 new homes and associated retail and employment uses in this remote section of northern Los Angeles County, currently designated as a "Significant Ecological Area (SEA), by Los Angeles County Regional Planning. The project, known as "Centennial," is just beginning environmental review. The company hopes to reach full build-out by 2010.
  • Tejon Lake Area: An invasive 7,000 unit, low density, resort development surrounding Castac Lake, renamed Tejon Lake, near Frazier Park in the mountains of Southern Kern County. This project would sprawl over 32,000 acres of prime habitat. Calling this concept "Tejon Mountain Village," company documents envision a golf course, spa facility, commercial development and other community serving amenities. No application has been submitted to date.

 

Threats
The threats to this important landscape are enormous. The Los Angeles basin and the southern San Joaquin Valley already face some of the worst traffic and air pollution problems in the nation. But these proposed developments are particularly ominous in light of the fact that they represent just the tip of an iceberg. The combined acreage of these three projects represents just 16% of the ranch's total acreage and should not be considered in the absence of a comprehensive analysis of the ranch's unique natural and cultural resources, nor prior to a full disclosure of overall development plans.

Biological

As a private property holding, access to the Ranch by scientists and researchers for the purposes of mapping, inventorying and characterizing the biological, ecological and cultural resources has been limited. Conservation biologists have identified this region as an irreplaceable core biological resource area for numerous imperiled plant and animal species. Just a few of the federal or state-listed species known from the vicinity of the ranch include:

  • The striped adobe lily;
  • Bakersfield cactus;
  • Mexican flannelbush;
  • Arroyo toad;
  • Red-Legged frog;
  • Blunt-nosed leopard lizard; and
  • Mojave ground squirrel.

With an elevation range of over 8,000 feet, the area includes an impressive mosaic of 27 different vegetation communities, ranging from Montane forests and wet meadows to desert scrub and juniper, to annual grasslands and oak savannahs and coastal riparian and scrub habitats.

It contains designated critical habitat for the federal and state-listed endangered California condor, and supports healthy populations of other raptors, American badger, mountain lion, tule elk and mule deer, which require large and intact wildlands to survive. There are numerous examples of unique animals catalogued in this region. Additionally, the Ranch supports the headwaters of 14 creeks and serves as a critical landscape linkage between the Transverse Ranges, Peninsular Ranges, and the Sierra Nevada.

Cultural

The Chumash Nation has catalogued numerous sacred sites at Tejon Ranch over the decades, and the Ranch has consistently restricted access to these sites, and blocked efforts to conduct research into as-yet undiscovered cultural resources on the property.

Air Quality/Traffic/Urban Sprawl/Job-Housing Imbalances

As has been documented almost daily in newspapers from the L.A. Times, Bakersfield Union, Fresno Bee and others, air quality in the San Joaquin Valley now is among the worst in the nation, as farmland is inexorably converted to urban sprawl communities. Health care issues among children are of special concern as the incidence of asthma is on the rise. The Tejon Ranch EIR documents state that diesel truck emissions will escalate greatly as thousands of additional truck and automobile trips are added each year due to the addition of the proposed inland port, and tens of thousands of residential units and tens of millions of feet of industrial and commercial space.

The daily commute trips between Bakersfield, Arvin and other valley cities up the grapevine to the proposed Tejon Industrial Center, the Centennial Project Development, and the proposed Tejon Lake Resort Development, and the daily commuting trips down Interstate 5 from all these projects to Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley and beyond will also stretch the transit corridor's load capacity to the breaking point. The billions of dollars required to widen and re-design Interstate 5 will be borne by all Californians.

Additionally, as is common in sprawl developments everywhere, the extension of urban infrastructure such as roads, sewers, utilities, schools and other public serving needs is often subsidized at the expense of existing urban and sub-urban communities. Inner cities are not the only communities to suffer.

Project Goals:
Environment Now helped establish the Tejon Working Group. This collaborative association is comprised of residents, planners, biologists, conservationists and non-profit organizations allied to conserve the Tejon Ranch based on sound science. The Tejon Working Group has embarked upon a multi-track approach to halting any further development approvals, and challenging existing approvals, until a collaborative planning process is implemented that addresses:

  • Environmental and biological concerns;
  • Cultural resource protection;
  • Air and water pollution;
  • Water supply and infrastructure availability;
  • Loss of irreplaceable and productive farmland;
  • Growth induced jobs/housing imbalances; and
  • Traffic congestion and alternative transit measures, among others

For more detailed information, visit www.savetejonranch.org.

 

Smart Growth - Infill Initiative Project

A Uniform Methodology for Identification of Urban Infill

Currently, there is no effective, standardized mechanism for identifying vacant or underutilized sites in urban areas and evaluating their potential for redevelopment. As a result, it is often easier to identify development sites in largely undeveloped outlying areas than to seek out vacant or underutilized sites within urbanized areas. The result is:

  • Increased sprawl;
  • Land use imbalances;
  • Traffic congestion on commuter roadways;
  • Air pollution;
  • Inefficient use of land;
  • Pressure to consume scarce financial resources extending roads and other infrastructure to outlying areas;
  • Loss of valuable open space.

As problems associated with urban sprawl grow, we must find new ways to accommodate swelling populations without further expanding urban boundaries. The answer lies in infill development and/or redevelopment using vacant, blighted or underutilized sites within urban areas near established transportation corridors.

By identifying vacant and underutilized parcels for future development/redevelopment, growth could be redirected to the urban center. This Project will provide the necessary mechanism for planners to identify and evaluate potential redevelopment of blighted and underutilized sites, allowing cities and the county to accommodate growth while curtailing urban sprawl.

The Project will be led by an organized team consisting of representatives from a wide variety of stakeholders in the southern California region including:

  • California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) staff;
  • California Housing & Community Development Department (HCD) staff;
  • Governor's Office of Planning and Research;
  • City and County of Los Angeles planning staff;
  • Mayor Hahn's - L.A. Business Team;
  • U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD);
  • Elected officials;
  • Developers, planners and the business community;
  • Environmental organizations;
  • Housing and community organizations.

Analysis will be provided by planners and other technicians.

The Infill Methodology project will involve the following tasks

  • Assemble information on infill analysis methodologies from other jurisdictions;
  • Define and explore technical tools;
  • Retain technical team and review alternatives;
  • Test analysis models on sample areas of the City of Los Angeles for applicability, accuracy, and completeness;
  • Document methodology and test results in printed and e-formats;
  • Submit findings to various local and State agencies for peer review and implementation.

In the near term, the infill analysis methodology will be used to identify and evaluate appropriate vacant or underutilized sites within the existing urban area. Long term outcomes resulting from the project will be a uniform methodology for identifying and assessing potential infill sites, better coordination of transportation and land use planning, and more accessible and affordable housing. This Project can provide a foundation for smart growth and better planning overall.