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Ventura County Perspective | SECOND OPINIONS

County Line Defines a Debate About Growth

Newhall and Ahmanson developments would differ in almost every respect except land area. The health, safety and quality of life of Ventura County residents dictated the decision to sue.

April 11, 1999|KATHY LONG | Kathy Long is a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors

In response to The Times' editorial, "Stand Firm on Newhall Ranch" (March 28), there seems to be a misconception that Ventura County "stuck" Los Angeles County with the Ahmanson Ranch project, and now Los Angeles County is returning the favor. This could not be further from the truth.

Although similar in land area, the two projects differ in almost every other aspect:

Ahmanson Ranch would urbanize 1,885 acres while Newhall Ranch would urbanize 6,111 acres.

Ahmanson Ranch was mandated to place 10,864 acres into permanent open space, 1,513 acres of which are in Los Angeles County. Newhall Ranch would place 5,852 acres in open space, none of it in Ventura County.

Ahmanson Ranch at build out would have 3,050 housing units. Newhall Ranch would have more than 22,000 housing units sprawling the basin.

Ventura County required the Ahmanson Ranch environmental impact report (EIR) to mitigate the project impacts, even across county lines into the cities of Agoura Hills and Calabasas. Ventura County mandated that a $3.7-million air pollution fund be set up by Ahmanson to reduce the effects of traffic in the region. The Newhall Ranch air quality analysis and mitigation commitments stop at our county line, leaving Piru, Fillmore and Santa Paula to breathe the bad emissions of unchecked traffic.

A regional traffic model was used for Ahmanson Ranch, resulting in the project committing to $3.6 million in mitigation fees to Los Angeles County and its nearby cities. It would also provide millions of dollars more in road improvements in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County did not require regional traffic analysis and has required Newhall Ranch to provide only minor intersection improvements in Fillmore and Piru. Los Angeles County has not required Newhall Ranch to pay traffic mitigation fees within Ventura County.

Ventura County required affordable housing to balance the jobs created by Ahmanson Ranch, then required additional affordable housing. In Ahmanson Ranch, 25% of all units would be affordable. Newhall Ranch was forced by a supervisor's floor motion to commit 10% of all housing units to be affordable, but would not be required to build one unit until the project was 50% built out.

Ventura County addressed Ahmanson Ranch water quality issues by requiring a comprehensive urban runoff management program to mitigate impacts in either county. Newhall Ranch / Santa Clarita aquifers connect to our Piru / Oxnard basins. This project would potentially cut off our ground water resource if Newhall drew down 10 to 20 feet of the basin. This would pose a substantial risk to our urban residents and farming industry from the county line to the ocean. Los Angeles County has repeatedly responded to Ventura County's concerns with untested assumptions and piecemeal offerings.

As a Ventura County Supervisor, I do not want to take our neighbors to court. Other supervisors and I have taken every reasonable step to resolve our differences outside of litigation. Unfortunately, no independent dispute resolution process exists under CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.

The board and I feel a responsibility to protect the very basic rights of our citizens to a healthful living environment, one in which there is enough water to drink and there are resources to earn a living. The devastating impacts of the Newhall Ranch project on our ground water basin, the health of our Santa Clara River, protection of our biological resources, safety of our traffic corridors and quality of our air basin brought our board to vote unanimously April 6 to file a lawsuit. This is a vote to invest in the future of our communities by protecting our boundaries and defending our quality of life. We must stand firm.

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