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California’s Newhall Ranch Project Announces It Will Be A ‘Net Zero’ Community

Late last year, the California Supreme Court issued a broad-reaching defeat to Newhall Ranch, a proposed master-planned community in northern Los Angeles County that was first approved by the county board of supervisors in 2003.One of the most prominent aspects of the case that has implications far beyond Newhall has to do with quantifying the significance of greenhouse gas emissions associated with project. The court rejected Newhall’s methodology and purported to offer suggested alternative schemes. Experts have opined that the court’s “direction” was more confusing than helpful. In response, Newhall as announced an emission level for its project that is trusting all will find acceptable—zero.

Newhall will have a 20-year development horizon, sits on 12,000 acres, and proposes more than 20,000 residential units for a population of approximately 58,000 residents. Addition proposed uses including commercial and business, schools, golf courses, parks, and other community facilities.

Newhall’s approach was unveiled in its Additional Environmental Analysis (AEA) responding to the court’s ruling. The official “project” is called: Newhall Ranch Resource Management and Development Plan and Spineflower Conservation Plan. The lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act for this aspect of Newhall is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

According to its own website and Appendix 1 to the AEA, Newhall will accomplish net zero emission through a comprehensive on-site and off-site mitigation regimes. As explained in more detail below, 13-core, community-wide mitigation measures ranging from energy efficiency mandates for residential units to potential provision of stoves for sub-Saharan Africa communities, all to be certified by Los Angeles County, as the project builds out over its decades-long development horizon.

While Newhall repeatedly states that it does not believe net zero is the appropriate or legal significance threshold for greenhouse gas emissions in California, it remains to be seen whether this will be a precedent to which other development projects are called upon to meet. The AEA and other Newhall-related documents are available at:

(David Smith)