Conservation Update, 2013 Jan | Saddle Crest, Puente-Chino Hills, Los Cerritos Wetlands
SADDLEBACK CANYONS: SADDLE CREST LAWSUIT
Statewide CNPS has become one of five petitioners in a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive Relief, brought against the OC Board of Supervisors, and developer Rutter Santiago LP, for the Supervisors’ approval of the Saddle Crest development. See the Nov./Dec. Newsletter for background and details on the development and OCCNPS/CNPS’ past involvement. The other petitioners are Saddleback Canyons Conservancy, Rural Canyons Conservation Fund, Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, and Audubon California.
Statewide CNPS is an official petitioner in this OC lawsuit because statewide CNPS is the 501(c)(3) designee for the entire organization, so has the authority to take legal action on behalf of the organization. OCCNPS, a subsidiary of statewide CNPS, does not have that authority. See cnps.org/cnps/archive/legal_actions.php for details on CNPS’ litigation requirements and procedures.
The Petition was filed on Oct. 31. Despite this pending lawsuit, the OC Subdivision Committee approved a Vesting Tentative Tract Map (VTTM)for Saddle Crest on Nov. 14. Petitioners immediately appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, which in turn upheld the approval on Dec. 18.
Petitioners now see no choice but to file a separate suit contesting the VTTM’s approval, to ensure that that approval can be set aside later. This is because, under the law, a VTTM may take on a life of its own. Even if the project EIR and all other approvals are overturned in court, a developer could still have “vested rights” based on the tract map—the right to develop as planned, provided the development complies with any “public benefit” conditions placed on the tentative map by the approving jurisdiction.
OCCNPS’ main point remains that the proposed mitigations for loss of the site’s populations of Calochortus weedii intermedius and Nolina cismontana (both CRPR 1B.2) do not fulfill CEQA requirements. So the EIR is inadequate, the Board of Supervisors’ initial approval of the project was in error, and the VTTM approval was premature.
ACTION NOW: Go to fhbp.org/programs/saddleback-canyons.html to help support both lawsuits, and preservation of the Saddleback Canyons.
Three new developments are in the works for private lands near Chino Hills State Park—lands that should be preserved as part of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor; details and background: hillsforeveryone.org/projects/index.html.
ACTION NOW: Especially if you live in northern OC, speak up for preservation during the upcoming public comment periods, and donate to help preserve the Hills’ much-needed natural open space at hillsforeveryone.org/donate/index.html.
LOS CERRITOS WETLANDS
The Los Cerritos Wetland Authority has been working since 2001 to preserve and restore the approximately 500 acres of wetlands remaining along the San Gabriel River in Long Beach and Seal Beach; info and background: lcwetlands.org/index.html.
ACTION NOW: If you live in the Seal Beach area, join CNPS’ South Coast Chapter (which has long been involved with this project) at the fifth public workshop on the Los Cerritos Conceptual Restoration Plan, at the Seal Beach Senior Center on Jan. 31.
—Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair