imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Newhall Land's policies raise questions for stricter enforcement

by By Richard Fausset and Nicholas Riccardi, Tim Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002 at 12:07 AM

From the LA Times Monday Dec.16th, 2002



Reacting to disclosures that Newhall Land & Farming destroyed endangered plants on its property, environmental activists and some planners are calling for restrictions on confidentiality agreements that prevent environmental consultants from sharing information with the public.

The existence of suspected fields of San Fernando Valley spineflowers, an endangered plant that lives on property that Newhall Land wants to use for housing, was not revealed for two years after the flowers were discovered. That was because the consulting botanists who located them were required by Newhall Land to sign a confidentiality agreement -- an increasingly common legal practice that critics contend violates the spirit of state environmental laws.

Such agreements are made possible by policies in Los Angeles County and some other jurisdictions that allow developers to select consultants to write environmental impact reports. The county officials say that having the county directly control the consultants would be too cumbersome.

But some critics and planning experts say that allowing developers to guide the writers of environmental impact reports -- rather than insisting they work directly for the county -- essentially lets builders police themselves.

Attorney Jan Chatten-Brown wants state lawmakers to bar the practice but says there has been little interest in Sacramento. "People have said, 'Where are the horror stories?' " she said. "Well, here it is!"

In May of 2000, the state Department of Fish and Game recommended that Newhall Land search its 12,000 acres for the spineflower, which had been believed extinct until it was rediscovered on another development site in 1999.

The developer retained an environmental consultant to look for the plants. The consultants found one stand of spineflowers, then located several other fields spread throughout areas slated for high-density housing. But Newhall Land did not send the samples from the other fields to labs to confirm they were the protected plant. Instead, the developer ordered its consultants to stop surveying and reminded them they had signed a confidentiality agreement, court records and company officials say.

The next year, Fish and Game officers began investigating reports that Newhall Land was underreporting and destroying spineflowers on its site. The investigation was stymied when the biologists who discovered the tiny plants refused to give officials any details of their findings, citing the confidentiality statements they had signed with the company, according to court records.

In environmental documents filed with the county Dec. 2, after a search warrant served on the Newhall Land property and an investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, the developer acknowledged the earlier discovery of other spineflowers and the "unconfirmed" ones that the developer had never tested. By that time, Newhall Land had plowed under what state officials say were thousands of flowers in what the developer says was a farming operation.

Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said the company makes all its environmental consultants sign confidentiality statements. In the case of the spineflower, she said, all the information became public when the company released its revised environmental impact report last week.

"Everything that we do eventually becomes public," she said.

Regardless, some say confidentiality agreements violate the spirit of the law that governs development -- the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires a public review of projects that could do ecological harm.

Terry Roberts, a former city planner and head of the state clearinghouse in the Office of Planning Research, said she was surprised that consultants would be required to sign confidentiality agreements. "An important purpose of the CEQA process is to have all of this information to be made public," Roberts said, stressing that she was speaking generally, not addressing the Newhall Land case specifically.

Attorney Chatten-Brown, who was co-counsel in a lawsuit that forced the developer to rewrite parts of its environmental review, said that "the confidentiality requirement is clearly [antithetical] to the intent of CEQA."

And Darryl Koutnik, head of the county's impact analysis division, said the county tries to counter confidentiality agreements by requiring all developers to include every consultant's report in final environmental documents.

Still, he said, confidentiality deals are "obviously a bad thing as far as public disclosure. The company ... proposing the information will then be able to control what gets put out and what doesn't."

Koutnik said such agreements are increasing, which he attributed to the rise in lawsuits attempting to block development. In recent months, members of the California Native Plant Society have been considering starting a certification program for botanists that would include a code of ethics. Some are now wondering whether that code should include a ban on confidentiality statements.

"We keep reviewing environmental documents prepared by botanists that are just incompetent, or they're committing fraud and twisting the facts," said David Magney, a past president of the society who is heading up the certification effort. "Then, when a company like Newhall forces all of their biologists to sign confidentiality statements, it makes things that much harder to track down."

While some consultants fear losing business if they do not sign confidentiality agreements, others, such as Santa Clarita biologist Frank Hovore, refuse to sign them outright. At the Sacramento consulting company Jones & Stokes, confidentiality is fine for surveys that are not part of the state environmental review process. But staff attorney Ken Bogdan said that the company always fully discloses its findings to government when it is preparing California Environmental Quality Act reports.

Los Angeles County allows Newhall Land and other developers to select and manage the consultants who file environmental documents. Only after the documents are filed does the county's planning agency double-check them.

A few other large jurisdictions, the city of San Francisco for one, use the same procedure, but most government agencies prefer to have a direct relationship with consultants, planning experts say.

"There's no question that this favors the applicants," said William Fulton, a former planning consultant who has written books on development in Southern California. "And given that unincorporated L.A. County has a reputation as a pro-development jurisdiction, it's politically convenient."

Los Angeles officials say they scrupulously fact-check the assertions of developers' consultants. "Some consultants have worked with us really well, and others have presented us with a very difficult situation and have tended to resist some of the direction they have been given," said Don Culbertson, administrator of the county's planning division. "Until we have a document that we believe represents a significant draft for public review, it doesn't go anywhere."

Still, as the spineflower case illustrates, developers control the information under Los Angeles County's procedures. Koutnik said officials can do only so many inspections with the resources they have. He is one of only two biologists on the planning department's payroll.

"We would love to be able to have sufficient staffing to be able to monitor those activities and keep abreast of them," Koutnik said. "But we're so swamped with so many different cases across the county that we simply don't have enough staff to keep up with the activities."
Report this post as:

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Self Regulation duff Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002 at 4:52 AM

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A13 12:39AM

lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

Change Links April 2018 A01 6:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Paraphysique de psychosomatique S22 6:58AM

Chuck Grassley: Women Abusing, Animal Murdering, Illegal War Supporting Criminal S22 2:58AM

Finance Capitalism and the Digital Economy S21 4:45PM

Muselières syndicales, muselières patronales S21 7:19AM

Jeff Bezos, Amazon, The Washington Post, Whole Foods, Etc S21 2:50AM

Why Choose Nut Milk Over Cows' Milk S21 1:01AM

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Creative Destruction Hack Diamonds Windows/iOS/Android - Creative Destruction Generator S19 12:51AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Creative Destruction Hack Mod Generator S15 3:49AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Propagande de virus, virus de propagande S10 7:34AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

Sweatshop Lodge Ceremony Continues in US Fed Prisons Led by Inmates S08 6:17PM

Paraphysique de l'origami S08 7:11AM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Du réussissement putréfié S06 10:55AM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Log S06 4:25AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy