Following the release of reports that two large housing developments would cause irreparable harm to southeast Ventura County's rural environment, three of five Board of Supervisors members scheduled to vote on the projects early next year said they probably will not support them.
The reports released Monday on the Ahmanson and Jordan ranch developments found that the two projects, as they are proposed, would have significant and unavoidable effects on air quality and traffic, among other things.
Supervisor John Flynn said the reports "came up with what I predicted, which is that there are so many problems that I do not see how they could ever be mitigated."
Supervisor Maggie Erickson and Supervisor-elect Maria VanderKolk, who will take office Jan. 1, said that the increased traffic and smog that would be generated by the two developments outweigh any benefits they would provide to the county.
"My inclination is to think that this is not going to be something that I support," Erickson said.
Supervisor Susan Lacey, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has repeatedly said she opposes both developments. Supervisor Jim Dougherty's term expires in November, and candidates Vicky Howard and Bill Davis, both Simi Valley council members, have not taken a position on the projects.
Fred Maas, vice president of Potomac Investment Associates, which has an option to purchase and develop Jordan Ranch from entertainer Bob Hope, said he is not surprised by the comments.
"It doesn't change our plans," Maas said. "We pledge to work very hard, whether it's with the county or the city of Simi Valley, to address all of the negative impacts."
Anticipating opposition from the supervisors, Hope in July asked Simi Valley to annex Jordan Ranch along with 3,600 acres of his Runkle Ranch northeast of the city.
Simi Valley has petitioned the Local Agency Formation Commission for a preliminary ruling to determine whether annexation of Jordan Ranch is feasible. The commission is scheduled to take up the issue at its next meeting, Sept. 12.
Meanwhile, Maas said he would consider an alternative presented in the environmental impact report regarding the incorporation of Oak Park and Jordan Ranch as a city.
"We're open to any ideas," Maas said. "Geographically, that makes a lot of sense. Politically, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed."
One such issue is whether Oak Park residents want to become a city. Residents there are considering the issue.
Another factor would be whether the two communities combined would be able to generate enough revenue to support incorporation, said Dennis Hawkins, a senior planner with the Ventura County Resources Agency. Hawkins said LAFCO would have to conduct an incorporation study to make that determination.
In addition to causing significant increases in traffic and smog, the environmental reports released Monday concluded that the Jordan Ranch housing project would destroy 10 to 20 acres of wetlands and 1,100 trees in Liberty and Cheeseboro canyons and development areas.
But Maas said Hope's offer to sell and donate 5,700 acres in the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountains to park agencies if the Jordan Ranch development is approved should be an overriding consideration.
"You have to look at the entirety of what is being proposed," Maas said. "Our project clearly benefits all of Ventura County."
Maas also noted that the environmental report on Jordan Ranch is based on an outdated design proposal and that Hope and the developer already have voluntarily agreed to reduce the size of the housing project by about 40%. The report analyzes the original proposal for 1,152 residences on the ranch and a four-lane access road, instead of a two-lane road and 750 houses now being proposed.
VanderKolk, however, said 750 houses still constitutes too much development for the ranch property.
"As far as I'm concerned, they'd have to whittle it down to 50, and even if they did that, the golf course alone would have devastating impacts" on Palo Comado Canyon in the development area, she said.
Meanwhile, the environmental report on the Ahmanson Ranch development concluded that emissions from traffic generated by the project would far exceed county air-quality standards. The amount of affordable housing in the area will not be sufficient to accommodate the number of jobs created by the development, the report said.
The Ahmanson Land Co. has proposed building 3,000 houses, 3 million square feet of office space, two hotels and two golf courses on nearly 2,000 acres of vacant land. About 3,000 acres of the 5,477-acre Ahmanson Ranch will be left in open space or be used for community recreational facilities.