Newhall Ranch Project Gets Go Ahead In Santa Clarita Valley Despite LA Housing Protests

A truce was made Monday, September 25 between Southern California environmental groups and the Newhall Ranch project, putting an end to one of the most historic development battles in California history. The new truce will enable up to 58,000 California citizens to take residence in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Protestors and environment-advocacy groups argued the construction of the residential project would contaminate the local water supply, threaten natural habitats, threaten endangered species, contaminate the quality of the air, and desecrate the graves of Native American cemeteries and burial sites.

As a compromise, project developer FivePoint Holdings agreed to use $25 million to create an independent conservancy. The conservancy would be lead by members of the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the California Native Plant Society, and the Center for Biological Diversity. This conservation effort would allow the development project to be built without risking damage to Native American burial sites or destruction of natural habitats.

“This is a tremendous agreement which provides for added protections for Native American resources and the environment,” said chairperson and chief executive officer of FivePoint, Emile Haddad.

The Newhall Ranch project is just one of many new developments that will be built along Interstate 5. The construction comes at a time of a severe housing crisis in Los Angeles where affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. Up to 54% of potential home buyers in the U.S. were willing to invest more money into a home with hardwood floors in 2013. But in recent years, many Los Angeles citizens would settle for a tiny, carpeted studio.

However, despite these new constructions for Los Angeles residents, the construction’s success is being questioned what with the high price of rent. According to the Los Angeles Times, the new developments and apartment buildings may be able to house a family of two with a low annual income of $37,000, but the homeless on the streets making $14,000 a year would never be able to afford one of the currently empty units.

“How can we continue to allow skyscrapers to come into our community to remain vacant when we’re in the middle of a housing crisis?” said Steve Diaz, Los Angeles Community Action Network member. “That’s a shame.”

Los Angeles isn’t alone in its low-income housing crisis. Many cities across the U.S. are struggling with developing new residential buildings capable of housing those Americans who are unable to afford average rent. One example of this crisis is the Housing and Urban Development’s closure of the Alms Hills Apartments in Cincinnati, Ohio. Residents such as Kimetta Carter are currently filing a federal lawsuit against HUD for their right to stay in their building.

“They want to offer us vouchers to move into other locations,” said Carter. “However, there are no locations for us to move into, so the vouchers are worthless.”

According to residents, HUD refuses to acknowledge the building’s improvements including new electrical wiring, a new mail room, and new elevators, which are suggested to be given maintenance every 12 months.

To fight for the lower income families of Southern California, many Los Angeles activists are taking to the streets to protest the development of newer buildings. Although the buildings are necessary, protesters have pointed out that new market-rate apartments would cause the rents of other low-income buildings to skyrocket.

“… A person has to earn $106,000 a year in order to afford a home in the region,” said Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, “where the median price is currently $600,000.”

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