An Arizona-based environmental group has again challenged plans for a large, master-planned community just north of the Grapevine, saying Kern County's amended environmental review of the project underestimates its potential impacts on wildlife and air quality.
The lawsuit filed Friday in Kern County Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity says a review approved last month by the county Board of Supervisors misapplied a model for calculating health impact. It also alleges the county failed to take full account of the project's possible effects on protected species such as the San Joaquin kit fox and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.
"This project is bad for people and wildlife,” Ileene Anderson, a CBD scientist, said in a news release. “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.”
She added, “Kern County needs to clearly inform the public how this project will harm communities instead of clinging to unrealistic and unsubstantiated projections.”
The phased development proposal by Lebec-based Tejon Ranch Co. would put 12,000 homes and up to 5.1 million square feet of commercial development along Interstate 5 near the foot of the Grapevine.
A senior county official in charge of the environmental review could not be reached for comment Friday.
Tejon Ranch Co. issued a statement Friday saying the legal challenge was entirely expected "given the long history of CBD challenging projects statewide that would provide much needed housing and economic development, including projects at Tejon Ranch."
The company accused the organization of "re-litigating" an issue on which it already lost.
"To stand in the way of these locally approved developments that will bring thousands of much-needed, price-attainable homes to California families is yet another stark example of CBD’s 'my-way-or-the-highway' mentality," it wrote.
In July 2018, the CBD persuaded a Superior Court judge to order a revised environmental review because of concerns the county hadn't done enough analysis of the project's traffic and air quality impacts.
The county consequently revisited its review, making changes and bringing it back for a vote of the board, which reaffirmed the review in December.