October 5, 2011

The San Fernando Valley spineflower is back

People wonder why California housing is subject to booms and busts. How come supply couldn't keep up with spikes in demand when the Fed cut interest rates in 2002?

After 15 years of litigation and protests over the 21,000-home development, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave its blessing Tuesday for the first phase of the Newhall Ranch project to break ground.  
The board's decision marks a major step forward for the Santa Clarita-area master planned community that has survived bankruptcy and legal challenges since it was first proposed in the mid-1990s. ... 
"This is the 15-year culmination of getting state and federal approvals," said Marlee Lauffer, vice president of marketing and communications for Newhall Land. "This is the approval of our first neighborhood." 
Located between the Santa Clara River and State Route 126 [west of 6 Flags Magic Mountain], Landmark Village will consist of 1,174 condominiums and 270 single-family homes, all connected by plazas, retail centers and parks. Groundbreaking is expected in two to three years, Lauffer said. The development will be built out over 30 years.

A mere 47-48 years total. They may get Phase I built out before I hit 100. Or, then again, maybe not.
Landmark Village is part of the larger Newhall Ranch project, which is planned to stretch over 12,000 acres near the 5 Interstate and the 126 Freeway. 
While boosters describe Landmark Village as a quaint small-town neighborhood with condos, porch-front homes, and corner stores, critics call it a planning disaster. 
Newhall Ranch still faces staunch opposition from environmentalists and some Native American groups, who filed a lawsuit in January arguing the state Department of Fish and Game issued permits that allow the project to build in the Santa Clara River flood plain, desecrate Native American burial sites and destroy San Fernando Valley spineflower habitat. The case is expected to be heard next year.

Ah, yes, the San Fernando Valley spineflower ... where would I be for material without you? I've been writing about this ugly dime-sized weed since the 1990s. I don't know how many millions of dollars in hourly billings lawyers and environmental consultants have racked up discussing the San Fernando Valley spineflower over the last 15 years.

The Save the San Fernando Valley Spineflower Movement is one of the funnier scams around. This weed was first listed in a botanist's book in the early 20th Century, then forgotten about. To the extent that anybody noticed it (and why would they? It's a tiny, abrasive-looking weed), it was lumped in with the virtually identical San Bernardino spineflower, which is said to be all over the place (although how would I know?).

Then, in the 1990s, neighbors wanting to stop the Ahmanson Ranch development had biologists comb the property looking for some kind of endangered species to use in halting the project. They found the San Fernando Valley spineflower. Not that it was on any endangered species lists. In fact, nobody had either noticed it or missed it for two generations. But, the burden of proof was then on the developers to prove that the San Fernando Valley spineflower wasn't only found on the Ahmanson Ranch, that it was all over the place. They eventually gave up and turned it into a park. (A very pretty place to hike, by the way, but the one time I went hiking there I came back covered in ticks. I don't like ticks.)

But, amazingly enough, this incredibly rare and endangered San Fernando Valley spineflower keeps turning up on whatever proposed megadevelopment neighbors want to block: first the Ahmanson Ranch, now the Newhall Ranch:
This variety of spineflower was thought to be extinct, having not been seen since 1929, until it was rediscovered accidentally on the Ahmanson Ranch development site in southeastern Ventura County.   It was presumed to be extinct by CNPS and botanists until June of 1999 when botanist Rick Reifner found it at a previously unreported locale on Laskey Mesa in the Simi Hills of Ventura County, just north of Calabasas.   It has also been found at several locations on Newhall Ranch near Valencia/Castaic Junction area ...

You know, you might almost think that the San Fernando Valley spineflower is not really that endangered, that it's just that nobody ever looks for this tiny, unpleasant plant unless they want to find it to use the Endangered Species Act to stymie a development.

Obviously, the hubbub is not really about the San Fernando Valley spineflower, it's about things like traffic. This proposed development is on one of the few spots of level land (the Santa Clara River floodplain) in the rugged Transverse Ranges north of the San Fernando Valley. The single route to the jobs of Los Angeles area is I-5. People who commute on I-5 don't want more commuters on I-5. If I commuted on I-5 from Santa Clarita into LA everyday, I'd probably be signing "Save the Spineflower" petitions against Newhall Ranch, too.

That's the inevitability of combining scenic terrain with a large population: you get very long development times and a high cost of living. You can blame ideology, but my guess is that, in the long run, terrain drives ideology. If the populations of Texas and California switched homes tomorrow, in a couple of generations attitudes on environmental restrictions on development would be right back to where they are today.

Personally, I'm in favor of all sides in these debates: property rights, environmental preservation, affordable housing, fast commutes, limiting carbon emissions, etc etc. I think the wants of citizens on all sides are not unreasonable. There's no single Solution.

Yet, there's an obvious way not to exacerbate these conflicts of interests among Americans: don't let vast numbers of foreigners into the country. Pointing this out makes me some kind of extremist kook. 


eh said...

Yes, clearly we all have to change our thinking so that more of America can be paved over in order to make room for all of the Asians, Indians, Mexicans, et al who want to live here.


So damn the ugly flowers, and full speed ahead.

Anonymous said...

You're right Steve.
In south-east England (probably the most densely settled portion of a non city state natio on Earth), there is tremendous pressure to build over such bucolic farmland that still exists, in order to house the London overspill.Needless to say, the overspill is entirely composed of immigration, especially the uncontrolled sort favored by Labour.
Anyway such people as are already blessed by owning property in the leafy hamlets of Hampshire etc are always the most vociferously opposed to any hint of new housing development.
'NIMBYs' they are called. (Not In My Back Yard).

Anonymous said...

I spent a decent amount of time working on a film in Newhall Ranch. It's where HBO vietnam war stories was filmed, as well as, oddly, the place where Vic Morrow was decapitated in a helicopter mishap.
The area is pristine, and it's a real crime to "develop" it. Small fordable rivers and towering cliffs make it a great hiking area that well represents the environmental old-time rustic southern california narrative that is quickly shrinking away. Though I may never visit there again, I believe it should be designated as a national park and left for the enjoyment of future generations.
Once it's gone, it's gone forever.
The area isn't just a pile of scrub. It's really a dynamic and interesting environment. Any kid would have a blast there.
Developers, and their lackey local politicians will never learn that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Anonymous said...

There aren't enough houses in California? Who knew?

Anonymous said...

The Tejon Ranch Company in California had to agree to never develop 90% of their land in order to be able to develop 10%.

dearieme said...

Someone, I suggest, has a supply of seeds of this pesky plant, to be scattered to suit.

Anonymous said...

i love the non-answers I get from enviro-liberals... their 'solution' we should all live in housing like that found in major cities.

Anonymous said...

in england the same liberals who advocated greenbelts are now advocating building over them.

Its really a shame because the way england is zoned you can drive just a bit out of london and be in the country unlike major metro areas in the us

the other solution is to stop subsidizing roads - that's what creates sprawl.

Anonymous said...

I still chuckle when I remember your post about a 'free market' libertarian who thought 'the market' would solve the housing problem when california got to.. 300 million people.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I keep checking back for your comments on Jobs and pancreatic cancer. You must be writing something long. Anyway, RIP Jobs.

Red Fox said...

"the other solution is to stop subsidizing roads - that's what creates sprawl."

It would be nice to see more of our expressways here in the United States converted into toll roads. Such a system would be more fair since the people who use the roads the most would end up shouldering more of the maintenance burden. Fees could also be staggered based on weight since heavier vehichles e.g. semi-trucks cause the most damage.

JerseyGuy said...

Development is a little different here on the East Coast. New Jersey has been been proactively buying up open space for the last 30 years. As a result, we no longer see these massive developments that still occur in Texas, Colorado, parts of California, etc. They have created somewhat of a London-style greenbelt (albeit 35miles west of NYC and not nearly as restrictive of course). I'm only 27 but I remember when I was in middle school, they were still building quite alot of these 200 home suburban developments here in Morris County. However, since around graduateing high school, it seems to have stopped and new development is prety hodge-podge.

The commenter on the South-East of England is correct. Just go onto Google streetview and see just how densely populated even the London suburbs are. I'm in strong favor of environmental conservation but it seems that they could perhaps hash an agreement to development 5-10% of the greenbelt in order to build single-family homes with, you know, actual yards. I remember John Derbyshire reading a newspaper during a RadioDerb broadcast a few years ago during the floods that occured in England in which the government stated that it had to build something like 200K new homes (mostly in floodplains)to keep up with housing demand and in the same section had a story about massive immigration into the South East of England. You think someone in the mainstream media over there, with the exception of the great Ed West of the Daily Telegraph would figure this out.

Anonymous said...

California would be better off in every possible way if it had about ten or fifteen million FEWER people. Its to bad its population couldn't have been permanently capped at about twenty million.

TGGP said...

Sounds like there should be congestion pricing.

Kylie said...

I supposed you'd value utility over beauty so I'm surprised to see you criticize the San Fernando Valley spineflower as an "ugly, dime-sized weed". However "abrasive" it may look, it sure has been useful, albeit in a way not usually mentioned in native plant guide books.

The brouhaha over it brought this to mind:

"What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet."

Dennis Dale said...

We cannot allow a spineflower gap!

Anonymous said...

"The other solution is to stop subsidizing roads - that's what creates sprawl."

That and not wanting to get shot, but whatever.

europeasant said...

"don't let vast numbers of foreigners into the country"

Except the population PONZI scheme
will keep growing until something in nature stops it.We humans don't have the predator/prey (disease,war,starvation)system in place anymore to keep population stable.Besides a stable population means no economic growth and our elites will never agree to that.

eh said...

After 15 years of litigation and protests over the 21,000-home development, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave its blessing Tuesday for the first phase of the Newhall Ranch project to break ground.

Whites in state 'below the replacement' level

California's white population has declined since 2000 at an unprecedented rate,...

IOW, the only reason it is necessary to decimate more (often beautiful) open space in California is to accommodate non-whites, most of whom are either immigrants, or the offspring of recent immigrants.

Do you really need to know anything more in order to be ardently opposed to projects like this?

Truth said...

Today the spineflower is "an ugly dime-sized little weed", tomorrow the redwood tree is...*

*(For all of you high SAT Einstens, that's meant in a figurative sense, I know the California Redwood is not 'dime-sized.")

Anonymous said...

Red Fox...

It's already a done deal:

Big rigs pay hefty registration fees far more massive than autos for just the reasons you cite.

As for tolls -- they're embedded in the price of fuel. Both the State and Federal governments exact more $$$ for road building/ maintenance than the oil company does in profit -- many times over.

This mechanism is MUCH cheaper than toll booths -- and is economically efficient.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'm against sprawl. It seems that people are uncomfortable with the idea of raising kids in apartments. When a population is boxed into apartment buildings, it starts having fewer kids. Why is the white US birth rate higher than the European non-immigrant birth rate? OK, Americans are more religious. But perhaps large homes with backyards have something to do with it too.

ELVISNIXON.com said...

Is this area a fulfillment of Steve Sailer's property affordability vis a vis family formation= Conservative analysis?

Can ANYONE speak to the area itself? How is living in Newhall? Saugus? Santa Clarita? Valencia?

Is it like Simi Valley? Conservative,clean, mostly retired LAFD, LAPD and white?

Is it like Sunland? Crime,criminal illegal aliens and Hispanic?

Who lives there and how does it compare to say West Los Angeles? Santa Monica?

Anonymous said...

Kylie, try reading Sailer's last paragraphs again. This is another routine clash of lawyered-up pressure groups just like everything else in USA 2011. But I also used to find amusement in the Web-addicted back-to-nature paleos whenever they started brandishing the delta smelt. They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Anonymous said...

If America had Englands' populations density, its population would be roughly 3.8 billion people, almost triple the population of China. The last thing England needs is immigrants.

stari_momak said...

In South Orange County we have the same type situation. The Dana Point headlands were pretty much ruined, so that what's left of the Chandler family could cash in on their grandpappy's land investments, a few developers could make some long green, and maybe 200 Mexicans could be employed for 6 months building 5 million dollar homes. Now the battle is over the 243 extension through Trestles/San Onofre. The funny thing is all the local 'progressives' are against the 243 (which runs inland from the 5) but are totally open borders. When you try to explain to them the contradiction in their positions -- that Americans, even 2nd and 3rd generation Mexican-Americans -- are not going to live 3 families to a house in Santa Ana, and that consequently we will need tons more housing in Riverside and the accompanying roads, they simply cannot comprehend.

Charlesz Martel said...

Steve, look up "Corsica and Bombings". The Corsicans have an extremely effective method of dealing with out-of-control real estate developers: They blow up their projects. This discourages them from ruining a beautiful island.

I've known Corsicans whose houses have been dynamited because they built in an area where the locals didn't want development.

A couple years ago, the swimming pool of a good friend of Sarkozy (who introduced him to Carla Bruni, in fact) was "occupied" by protestors. Sarkozy had the police chief of the island fired. Mysteriously, the file on the arrested protestors disappeared from the courthouse.

There's a video on youtube of a story (in french) where 12 armed and masked men went into the house of a French real-estate developer, took everyone out of the building, and then blew up his house.


I used to spend summers there. I actually support these guys. Nobody gets hurt, and nothing gets ruined. In my experience, real-estate developers end up owning politicians. This is the best, cheapest, and most humane ways of dealing with them.

What would America be like if Americans had had the guts to do this to INS offices? Do you think Corsica has an illegal immigrant problem?

jody said...

this is why high speed rail will never be built.

Hunsdon said...

Charles Martel said: Steve, look up "Corsica and Bombings".

Hunsdon replied: Martel, my friend, you have made my day. I laughed until I cried----which is the converse of what usually happens when I read anything connected to current events. I am quite sure that my historical namesake would have a roguish twinkle in his eye at your post. (He was, after all, an English bastard who controlled the Borders.)

JerseyGuy said...

One thing that always surprises me is the density of the new California housing developments, even in far flung areas like Riverside. Here is the Northeast (at least in the suburbs), we have pretty strict large lot zoning laws. Anyone know why these California suburban housing developments are so dense?

Actually, Randal O'Toole has written a pretty scathing review of a new book by Ryan Avent on the delightful joys of density (and how the world would be so much better if we turned into Hong Kong). Although I detest the open borders Cato Institute which employs Randal O'Toole, he does write some pretty good stuff:


Anonymous said...

In my experience, real-estate developers end up owning politicians.
this is true. Especially when its in the hands of local pols. In NY they can be bought for as little as 10K.

The baby boom generation has been tot society of low ethics, of spin, scam, cheat, lie.. its the hippies 'hey man i don't need your rules' writ large. Considering the ethnic make up of the sixties 'radicals' who were really just doing their parent's bidding, ironically enough, it's not surprising.

There is always a 'way' around rules and zoning if you're scammer and you violate the basic trust of society.. just look what hasidic developers do in Brooklyn. They simply don't care.

Nantucket and Marthar's vineyard aren't even immune..

David said...

People like low-density, environmentally sound areas populated by people like them.

Their shepherds like factory farming of humans - cram 'em together, on top of each other, let the entire world move in indiscriminately, infinitely growing population, pave everything, get 'em working eighteen-hour days, and suck up all the profits, profits, profits.

With these profits, the shepherds can then afford (rare and extremely expensive) low-density, environmentally sound areas populated by people like them....

I don't see a market solution to this. Only a Malthusian one.

Anonymous said...

"Corsica and bombings"....

That was an interesting read. Can't say I blame them at all. By the way I have been to Corsica and it is breathtakingly beautiful. Europe's best kept travel secret. Now I know why...

hbd chick said...

"I've been writing about this ugly dime-sized weed since the 1990s."

hey! plants are people, too!:

Kin recognition in an annual plant


ELVISNIXON.com said...

Hunsdon:Charles Martel was a Frankish King- what we might call "French"

He was born in what is now Belgium in the Walloon Region.

He was not an Englishman.

He did however believe in a fundamentally different border policy than Obama,Rick Perry,George Bush,Juan McCain, Ted Kennedy,PBS,NBC,ABC and the Los Angeles Times

PS By changing the name to "Charlesz" are you making him a Magyar?

Anonymous said...

I like your local story blog entries.Good stuff from crazy CA.

Speaking of ranches in LA there is a historic mega gigantic one on the Grapevine area of the 5 just north of theSF Valley. I can't recall its name but there must be a lot of bodies buried there. Must be a zillion dollars of real estate in that ranch. Must've been some serious power struggles in that domain. A bonanza style TV show about that ranch might be cool - but only if stripped of PC.

Kylie said...

"We cannot allow a spineflower gap!"

Love it!

Kylie said...

"Kylie, try reading Sailer's last paragraphs again. This is another routine clash of lawyered-up pressure groups just like everything else in USA 2011."

Yes and in this case, one group put the "ugly" San Fernando Valley spineflower to good use in its arguments--or, if you want to be more specific, the group used its putative environmental vulnerability as a pretext for halting that particular housing development.

I don't get what you think it is I don't get. I know it's not really about the spineflower. My thoughts tend to favor plants over people and my comment reflected that.

Any further clarification welcome.

Anonymous said...

If there were more apartments and condos for people to live in, more cheaply than a house, then the demand for single family homes wouldn't be so high. Zoning laws inhibit this..

Anonymous said...

Today the spineflower is "an ugly dime-sized little weed", tomorrow the redwood tree is...*

On the other hand, Troof, that's a two-edged sword: today people wanna conserve the spineflower, tomorrow someone might get the crazy idea that white people should be conserved, and what are you going to do then? (Probably do as you do now, I guess: shamelessly maintain self-serving double-standards.)


Truth said...

I know what YOU should do about it; have a few children, that action goes a long way in people-conservation, Sport.

Truth said...

Correct me if i'm wrong here, Sliver, but you don't have children, right?

epobirs said...

My previous home was just a few minutes from this chunk of land. It was a great place to hike with the dogs but nobody has been allowed in there for several years because the development was going to start any minute now. It's getting really hard to find a good place to go with a dog where it can run around and be free for a while. None of the official parks anywhere near here allow off-leash.

Anonymous, unless you mean up the Grapevine proper, the only ranch just off the 5 you could be referring to is a prison. It's directly across the freeway from my aforementioned previous home.


Steve Sailer said...

The commenter before was talking about Tejon Ranch, a huge expanse way north in the Tehachapis near Gorman.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of California

Anonymous said...

Smoking gun report on housing bubble and Clinton:


hcat said...

It still takes an hour and a half to drive from central Lindon to these bucolic scenes, just like in LA.