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Planning Hypocrisy in Las Lomas

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: February 12, 2008 7:55 p.m.
Updated: April 9, 2008 2:02 a.m.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think much of the Las Lomas project. Putting 5,800 homes in an area where freeway interchanges collapsed in both the ’71 and ’94 earthquakes (the freeway wasn’t there in ’52) just doesn’t seem like good planning. It is always the public that picks up the tab for such unconscionable decisions, through taxes for emergency services and through insurance hikes to cover damaged homes that never should have been placed in harms way, not to mention the homeowner that may loose his home in such a catastrophe.

Then there is the question of the destruction of 2,900 oaks in a wildlife corridor. At a time when each of us is being urged to plant a tree to help reduce global warming, should a planning department consider the destruction of 2,900 mature oaks in the already polluted Newhall Pass?

The game

So it is little wonder that hundreds of citizens turned out Monday night to an obscure city of Los Angeles Budget and Planning commission meeting to oppose the question of allowing the developer of Las Lomas to expedite the planning process by paying for his own planner and consultants? Our own mayor joined the crowd to speak against this proposal.

These folks know the game all too well. Once a project gets through the process, somehow the decision-makers just can’t say no. The developer pays for report after report that says there is no problem with anything from air pollution to endangered species. The seismic issues can all be fixed, slopes can be stabilized. We don’t need all those pesky animals anyway. Then the same developer will donate to the campaign coffers of the friendly officials to make sure that his people get elected, and donate to local charities and sports teams in the hopes of reducing opposition. And if all of that doesn’t help the developer get his way, he has plenty of money to sue the governing entity that might actually want to do some planning on behalf of the public.

So up and down the state of California we have local governments such as our own that can’t say no to building in flood plains, can’t say no to auto-oriented sprawl development in the face of climate change, who allow destruction of our special natural treasures, oaks and rivers. The developers then use these very symbols to advertise their uniform suburban housing tracts, which they inevitably call “ranches.” Geez!

Count on it

Yes, we all know the game. Once a project gets started, it is almost unstoppable. So we can count on our silly, shortsighted or maybe even unethical elected officials to allow houses in the Sacramento Delta area to be built right next to levies that may not hold, where the rooftops are level with the flood waters on the other side, or in fire prone areas in San Diego where firefighters loose their lives defending houses that should never have been there, or 21,000 units of auto-oriented sprawl that will channel L.A. County’s last wild river in the face of global warming. We can count on them to approve more housing tracts even when there is no room on the freeways for additional cars, a water shortage and a housing downturn from over-development, because they just can’t say no.

The public knows all this, so they come in droves to a budget committee meeting whose decision might at least slow down the process. They understand the sorry state of planning in California.

But I guess I am just not a very good politician because I especially have trouble with hypocrisy. If you are the mayor and council members in Santa Clarita, it is all right to rail against Las Lomas for destroying oaks and building in a wildlife corridor at the same time that you approve the Gates King project in the Newhall Pass that will do the same thing, but is in the city of Santa Clarita’s jurisdiction. It is all right to destroy 1,400 oaks, build on ridgelines and concrete streams near the Rim of the Valley area for the Gates King project in the city, but not all right for Las Lomas, a project that is not in Santa Clarita. It is all right for the Gates King Project to generate 27,000 additional auto trips per day in the Newhall Pass because it is in the city, but not for Las Lomas to generate 45,000.

Our city has never opposed the huge 21,000-unit Newhall Ranch project that will eliminate farming and channel the Santa Clara River, in spite of the air pollution and traffic it will generate through the Newhall Pass. With some 357,000 additional trips per day on our already overcrowded roads, traffic will be at a standstill. Newhall Land, too, paid the salary of the county planner who worked on this monster project. The city never opposed this action. This project is still in the planning stages. There is still time for our city to do the right thing here.

Try consistency

Our city annexed in and approved the Golden Valley Ranch project that the county would not approve because of concerns over unstable geologic formations. Now the developer has just emerged from bankruptcy after spending some $35 million to dig a huge hole to try to eliminate the problem. Why is the city of Santa Clarita now concerned about the geologic problems on Las Lomas? Is it just because they won’t be getting the tax money from this development if it is not in the city?

So don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t think Las Lomas is a good project. I am just tired of the hypocrisy. I would just like to see our city be consistent. How about opposing Newhall Ranch as well? The impacts to our valley of 21,000 units will certainly be greater than those of a 5,800-unit project. Shouldn’t our mayor and council members have something to say about Newhall Ranch as well?

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own view and not necessarily that of The Signal.

Copyright: The Signal


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