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Bill to Weaken Developers' Influence Fails in Assembly

June 06, 2003|Times Staff Writer

Legislation aimed at weakening developers' control over the environmental review of their projects failed to pass the state Assembly, officials said Thursday.

The bill was launched in response to allegations that Santa Clarita-based Newhall Land & Farming Co. concealed and destroyed an endangered plant -- the San Fernando Valley spineflower -- at the site of its planned 20,885-home subdivision in northwest Los Angeles County.

Activists contend that the company forced its environmental consultants to sign confidentiality agreements that restricted them from sharing their findings with anyone.

Introduced in April by Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), AB 406 would have prohibited developers from directly hiring the consultants who write environmental impact reports, which assess a project's potential damaging effects on its surroundings. The intent of the legislation was to ensure that the environmental review process is unbiased.

The bill faced stiff opposition from the building industry, which contended that it would unnecessarily complicate the planning process.

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