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Wildfire Risks Make Southern California Development a Gamble

The Tejon Ranch development would bring thousands of homes to a highly fire-prone area in L.A. County.
December 10, 2018, 1pm PST | Camille Fink
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Chris English

A large proposed development in Tejon Ranch, north of Los Angeles, is raising concerns about building in an area considered at high risk of wildfires. The Centennial project would include more than 19,000 houses, which will be located in a grasslands area where fires can start and move quickly. 

The developer, Tejon Ranch Company, and L.A. County planning staff say precautions can be put into place to minimize the wildfire threat, writes Nina Agrawal:

Because Centennial falls within state-designated fire hazard zones, homes will be built according to the most stringent codes, requiring flame-resistant roofing, attic vents with mesh screens, and double-pane, tempered glass windows. Homeowners must also clear brush within a certain radius on their properties.

But fire and ecology experts are skeptical. “Even if all the houses are designed exactly to code, [Michele] Steinberg said, they have to be maintained perfectly, with no dry leaves accumulating in gutters, cracks seeping between tiles or wooden decks tacked onto houses,” reports Agrawal.

The county's regional planning commission supports the project, and the proposal moves next to the board of supervisors this week. It could still be voted down, but the wildfire issue probably will not be the proposal’s downfall. “[Mitch] Glaser said he was not aware of any development in L.A. County that had been rejected wholesale because of fire hazard, though at least one had been downsized because of it,” notes Agrawal.

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Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 in Los Angeles Times
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