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Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023

DEVELOPMENT—Tejon Ranch Builder Talks About Bold Plan for Future

Decades from now, when historians and academicians look back on the development of Los Angeles County, Bob Stine, the head of Tejon Ranch Co., could be remembered as a visionary or a dreamer. It all depends on the success or failure of his bold plan to develop a 6,000-acre new city in north L.A. County atop the Grapevine near Quail Lake, a good 45 minutes north of Santa Clarita along the Golden State (5) Freeway. During a recent interview, Stine offered his views on L.A.’s exploding population and his vision for accommodating a major portion of it. Question: What do you say to critics who argue it’s premature to talk about developing a new town so far to the north? Answer : California is continuing to grow as the sixth or seventh biggest economy in world. The state’s population is projected to grow from 32 million to about 40 million over the next 10 or 15 years. It’s not realistic to think everyone is going to live along the coastline. Tejon Ranch can provide a great environment for a portion of that growth. We’re right in the path of it. Q: Newhall Land has 9,000 homes slated for Valencia and another 21,000 planned for Newhall Ranch. How do you expect to compete against those projects? A: Given the (environmental) challenges Newhall has faced, we think their pricing is going to be quite a bit more expensive than what ours would be. Our pricing would probably be lower than Newhall Ranch but probably higher than Palmdale and Lancaster and with a better climate. Q: From what areas do you expect to draw homebuyers? A: Predominately Los Angeles County, but there are a number of people who live in Kern County in the Bakersfield area who commute and work in the north end of L.A. County. I think we’ll get a certain percentage from Kern County as well. Q: Aren’t you worried about the enormous costs of providing the infrastructure needed for a new city the roads, schools, police and fire stations? A: It’s always a critical, key element for any project. We’re going through the modeling and planning right now with our partners to project all of those costs. Certainly it’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of time, but we think we can provide the necessary services at an affordable price. Q: But won’t the project result in yet another bedroom community? A: If you look at the development of Valencia, in the early years you probably had the majority of people not working there but commuting to some other part of greater Los Angeles. Now, over a period of time you have a very balanced community with a huge employment base. I think the same will be the case for our project. It would be a balanced, master-planned community with its own commercial, industrial and business center. Q: Newhall Ranch has been stalled over questions relating to water. Where do you expect to get the water to serve your residential project? A: We believe we have a dramatically different situation. The Quail Lake area, where we’re planning our community, is located in the Antelope Valley/East Kern Water District, which has a very large surplus entitlement from State Water Project of tens of thousands of acre-feet. They come to us looking to sell water. In addition to that, Tejon Ranch has its own entitlement from the state of nearly 25,000 acre-feet. So we have multiple sources of water that are more indigenous to the immediate area. That’s a very different situation from what Newhall Ranch has experienced. Q: How long do you expect it to take for Rolling Meadows to come to fruition? A: Realistically in L.A. County, to do all the proper planning and go through the environmental impact reports and satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act, you’re probably looking at a minimum of three years, probably longer (to complete the planning process). This community is probably a 15-year-plus project. It’s a lengthy period of time for sure, but that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to work with partners who are all big, long-term builders. Q: Newhall Land made the transition to real estate development years ago. Is it fair to say Tejon Ranch is following Newhall’s lead? A: In terms of our location in the greater L.A. basin, being 35 miles or so farther out, our development potential is coming after Newhall. We look at ourselves somewhat like Irvine maybe 35 years ago, and maybe the way Newhall was 25 or 30 years ago. We think our turn is coming. Q: How did you end up at Tejon Ranch Co.? A: In the beginning of ’96, the Tejon Ranch board of directors was seeking a new CEO, someone with a real estate background rather than primarily ranching and cattle. A search firm contacted me, and I started talking with the board about the future of Tejon Ranch and long-term planning for its land holdings here. It was a unique opportunity.

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