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State on county 'OVOV': Try again

Supervisors warned again about environmentally unsound One Valley, One Vision plan

Posted: March 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The county’s general plan violates state laws meant to curb air pollution, California’s attorney general said in a letter Thursday rebuking the document.

Los Angeles County’s plan for Santa Clarita Valley’s unincorporated areas would double the amount of ozone pollution produced by cars and trucks, and nearly double the amount of soot in the air, Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. An increase in both pollutants could cause increased risk of lung and heart damage among children and the elderly, Harris said.

County officials said Friday they would review claims made in the letter and make changes to comply with state law.
Elaine Lemke, principal deputy with the county counsel’s office, said she and officials from the Department of Regional Planning received no prior warning from the state that the letter would be released.

“I have to tell you the county is a little offended by the press release that (the attorney general) sent out,” Lemke said. “It was a little surprising, thinking that we had a working relationship with them and to be hit by this. ... Frankly, I thought it was unprofessional.

“As for the assumptions of the letter, I can’t comment on it,” she said. “We’ll respond to the comment letter appropriately in the final (environmental impact report).”

Officials from the Attorney General’s Office said Friday that similar letters are sent to counties and cities as planning documents are being revised.

While unlikely, if county supervisors approved the general plan as written, the attorney general or other groups could pursue legal action against the county, state officials said.

One Valley, One Vision consists of two separate master-planning documents that lay out a blueprint allowing the two municipalities to support a doubling of the Santa Clarita Valley’s population to nearly a half-million residents within 50 years.

The city’s version of One Valley, One Vision has not yet been reviewed by the attorney general.

City planners, who have spent the last decade working with the county on One Valley, One Vision, said unique geographical issues make it more difficult for the county’s plan to adhere to state environmental guidelines.

County planners have spent several months revising One Valley, One Vision to better adhere to stringent state guidelines regulating greenhouse-gas emissions after receiving its first attorney general letter, which it received in December 2009.

The plan was slammed for not reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and allowing for allowing nearly for nearly 4 million metric tons of emissions, according to the older letter, which was written by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown.

But Harris said the changes made are not enough.

The county’s plan doesn’t provide comprehensive information on how One Valley, One Vision could harm the environment, nor does it figure out how to reduce pollution to levels required under state law, Harris said.

While the city and county plans are about 90-percent similar, the county’s plan faces unique challenges that the city’s plan does not, Senior Planner Jason Smisko said.

The city has a more densely concentrated number of businesses and three Metrolink stations, which mean fewer car trips and therefore less greenhouse-gas pollution, Smisko said.

More than two-thirds of expected population growth during the next five decades will likely occur in unincorporated areas in the Santa Clarita Valley, Smisko said.


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