The conflict between the need for more housing in California and the danger of building in fire-prone mountains was decided in favor of homes recently as Los Angeles County supervisors approved a massive rural housing development, The Associated Press reports.
The supervisors voted 4-1 to approve a 19,000 home project, even as recent wildfires have drawn attention to the risks of building in the rural areas around California’s urban communities. There is a statewide housing shortage, high rents and a homelessness crisis.
The Centennial project at Tejon Ranch off Interstate 5 in arid mountains separating Los Angeles from the Central Valley to the north has been in the works for two decades.
Developers said the community 65 miles north of downtown LA will be built to minimize fire hazards and roads will be widened to help people evacuate if there is a fire.
Tejon Ranch Co. vice-president Greg Medeiros said the development has been would use anti-ember construction with buffers around homes. There will be four new fire stations for the several planned villages.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, representing the development area, said she was relying on the opinion of fire experts that the risk of fire was minimized.
She cited the state’s need for 180,000 new homes a year – a goal it falls shy of by 100,000 units. “This is not just another sprawl project,” she said.
However, opponents criticized environmental destruction in the undeveloped area and warned about the fire hazard.
“Centennial can include all the safety measures they like in the new development, but the fires will not conform to these precautions,” said Lesley Goren. “The fires will not excuse our short-sightedness – rather our poorly thought-out mistakes will just burn like the fuel they are.”
The state says the area is “high” and “very high” fire hazard zone. There were 31 wildfires greater than 100 acres within five miles of the development, including four within its boundaries in the past half-century, county planning documents said.