VALENCIA, SANTA CLARITA - In as little as one month, the developer of the Newhall Ranch community said he could break ground on the first of 21,000 homes.
The decision comes after FivePoint Holdings, the developer, reached a historic agreement with environmentalists who had opposed the project for decades.
"We have been waiting for this moment for 20 years, 14 years of that has been in the courts and now we can actually start talking about building communities and creating jobs and building housing," said Emile Haddad, the chairman and CEO of FivePoint Holdings.
The land, which will one day house 58,000 residents, is home to a variety of rare species. Among those are fish, migratory birds and the almost extinct San Fernando Valley Spineflower.
The deal includes $25 million dollars for conservation efforts. Eight million will go toward protecting and enhancing Spineflowers. A cultural center celebrating Native Americans will also be constructed.
"It's bittersweet in the respect that there's still going to be 58,000 people moving into this area eventually and that's going to displace the plants, the animals that currently live here," said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The positive part of it is that we have areas preserved for these plants and animals adjacent to the development that hopefully will be enough to allow them to continue to survive here."
Another achievement for environmental groups, most of which pulled lawsuits against FivePoint following the deal, is that Newhall Ranch will offset 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions.
"We are extremely proud to prove that you can actually do that. You can actually build a community of 21,000 homes and 11.5 million square feet and have zero impact on greenhouse gas emission," Haddad said.
FivePoint hopes this becomes a model for future housing developments. They believe we're two years away from the first families moving in.
Newhall Ranch joins other developments, such as the Tejon Ranch project that is in the works for the I-5 corridor. Tejon Ranch will bring housing and a resort to the area, which already has an outlet mall.