Tejon Ranch, the 422 square mile piece of land that sits sandwiched between Los Angeles and Bakersfield celebrated its 175 anniversary on Wednesday.
“We have in our possession, and have had for many decades, the federal deed that recognized and federalized the original El Tejon land grant,” said Barry Zoeller, vice president of communications for Tejon Ranch.
Signed on may 9, 1863 by our nation’s 16 president, Abraham Lincoln.
“So, instead of just sitting in our vault, we decided that a better repository for this historic document be the Autry Museum of the American West, an institution whose mission is to study and display the history of the West,” said Zoeller.
Tejon Ranch dates back to November, 14 1843. This was when the original land grants were awarded by Mexico. After the end of the Mexican-American War, the property became a U.S. territory. Nearly 20 years later, President Lincoln’s secretary affixed the president’s signature to the new deed.
That historic document has been in the hands of Tejon Ranch for over 150 years until Wednesday.
“We thought, what better way to honor 175 years of our history.”
President and CEO Greg Bielli also updated guests on the future of Tejon Ranch.
“The 10 percent that is now identified for development is almost there,” said Bielli.
In 2008, Tejon Ranch officials met with environmental groups and agreed they would leave 90 percent of the property for permanent preservation. The rest would be developed.
“Make no mistake, land development and real estate development in California is extremely difficult, there are huge barriers to entry to be able to come in and do the kind of work that Tejon Ranch is doing, but we have track record of success,” said Zoeller.
Tejon’s master plan for development includes four projects: an industrial park which is already a quarter of the way developed and three communities: centennial located on the northern fringes of la county, grapevine village located just off interstate 5 and mountain village proposed for 40 miles south of Bakersfield.
“We’re so proud to be in Kern County, a place where you can really do business and a place that actually cares about families and their outcomes,” said Bielli.
Centennial consists of 12,000 acres and plans to build over 19,000 residential units. It also proposed to include 10 million square feet of commercial space.
Grapevine Village, plans on 12,000 homes and 5.5 million square feet of commercial industrial space. This community will be just off Interstate 5. Initial approval for the proposed Kern County community came in 2016, but a lawsuit filed by environmental groups stalled the project.
“The Center for Biological Diversity has opposed everything Tejon Ranch has proposed and has been willing to go to court over it,” said Zoeller.
A similar opposition came to Tejon’s third proposed development project.
“They sued us on Mountain Village, they lost at the superior court level, took it to the appellate court and lost there,” said Zoeller.
Mountain Village is now moving forward and the closest to breaking ground.
“It will be kind of this really unique boutique commercial Village which will set the stage for what Mountain Village will really be about,” said Zoeller.
Mountain Village will include over 34,000 homes and 160,000 square feet of commercial space. However, that’s not all they hope to achieve.
“Part of the problem in California and specially in Southern California is the lack of housing,” said Zoeller. “The lack of availability has made housing unaffordable.”
To that end, 15 percent of the homes in Centennial will be classified as affordable units.
“Also having what we would consider be market rate housing that’s at a discount to other areas. 10% or 20% less than Santa Clarita or Valencia,” said Zoeller.
Zoeller says it’s not all about new homes, Tejon focus is on master-planned self-contained communities with public safety agencies, medical services and office space to create new jobs within each community.
Tejon Ranch tells me ground could be broken on Mountain Village by the year 2021.