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Legal Fight Against Auto Mall Expansion in Santa Clarita to Continue

August 01, 2003|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Environmental groups are taking their fight against a Santa Clarita auto mall to an appeals court in an attempt to scale back a project they say will harm an endangered species and increase air pollution.

With their notice of appeal, announced Thursday, activists hope to force developer Newhall Land & Farming Co. to conduct a more thorough environmental review of the planned expansion of the mall, which is located along the bank of the Santa Clara River.

The plaintiffs -- the Center for Biological Diversity and the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment -- are concerned that stabilization of the riverbank to accommodate the mall's expansion will harm the habitat of the endangered arroyo toad.

They also fear that soil trucked in for the project will increase air pollution in a city that violated federal ozone guidelines on more days than any other municipality in Southern California last year, according to the local air quality management district.

Many parents support Newhall's plans because the developer has promised to make improvements to nearby baseball and softball fields.

Newhall spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said on Thursday that the company feels "very comfortable that everything has been done appropriately and that [the environmental groups] will lose their appeal."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs originally ruled against the activists in May.

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