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Opinion: The Newhall Ranch project was a done deal, but conservationists still won important protections

Private land near the 126 Freeway in Newhall will be developed as part of the Newhall Ranch project.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As an environmental attorney who has fought for decades to defend Southern California’s open space from reckless urban sprawl, I’m proud to have helped protect more than 11,000 acres of important habitat in Ventura and Los Angeles counties from development and secure funding that will help safeguard the Santa Clara River in perpetuity. (“Is Newhall Ranch a new model of sustainable sprawl? Absolutely not,” editorial, Sept. 28)

No matter what, the massive Newhall Ranch project was going to break ground in a matter of months. But the legal settlement reached between the developer and my organization and other groups secured important benefits for wildlife, the river and local communities. Clean energy will also get a major boost.

Under the settlement, 10,000 solar installations on the project site will produce enough electricity to power tens of thousands of homes. That’s the single largest rooftop-solar commitment we’ve ever seen from a developer in California.

Protecting all this land forever would have been my great preference, and I worked toward that goal for more than 20 years. But after making many conservation commitments, Newhall’s developer had the approvals it needed to break ground. Walking away from the settlement talks would only have left more land open to the bulldozers.

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John Buse, Los Angeles

The writer is senior counsel and legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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To the editor: A Los Angeles Times article from 1989 headlined “The plugged-in archbishop,” about then-Roman Catholic Archbishop Roger Mahony’s various ruminations on L.A., says it all.

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In the article, Mahony says his frequent helicopter flights over L.A. “reveal a growing gap between those who have jobs and houses and opportunities and those who don’t.”

Mahony was quoted as saying: “I see this anomaly from the air. The inner city seems more like a war zone. You look at whole burned-out blocks and wonder how anybody can survive in that area. Then you see them rearranging mountains and valleys to put in new houses, and I think, geez, why are we taking all those mountains down and filling up the valleys when we really could do something in our communities?”

Soon, pristine open space outside Santa Clarita will see the construction of thousands of homes far away from the urban job centers that desperately need this housing. Homes need to go where they are truly needed without destroying the pristine mountains and valleys outside Los Angeles.

Mary Wiesbrock, Agoura Hills

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