Sunday, December 19, 2010

AV Solar Ranch One Project gets Unanimous Approval against Northrop Grumman's Protest

L.A. County supervisors refuse to put the brakes on the 230-megawatt project despite the military contractor's contention that it would interfere with its radar testing operations.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors denied a request from Northrop Grumman Corp. to delay final approval of a major solar project in the Antelope Valley near the military contractor's facility for testing radar evading stealth aircraft.
On a voice vote, supervisors rejected Northrop's appeal Tuesday, opting to let plans for the 2,100-acre complex of photovoltaic solar panels proceed. Final approval was expected Dec. 7, 2010.
Grumman argued that the project would "adversely impact the military mission" of the sensitive, 1970s-era testing center, just south of the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern County.
Antonovich noted that the project, AV Solar Ranch One, already has received a conditional use permit from the county regional planning commission.
The renewable energy developer, First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., has solid backing from area business, civic and government leaders, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the mayors of Lancaster and Palmdale.
The 230-megawatt project would provide 400 construction jobs in an economically depressed part of the county, said Frank De Rosa, a senior vice president. Once completed in 2013, it would generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes.
A solar energy generating plant is "the highest and best use for this particular property," said Mel Layne, president of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance.

The Daily News wire also reported on the story stating that a representative from Northrop Grumman said the 10 foot high photovoltaic panels would interfere with the contractor's testing of stealth aircraft. Northrop tests the B-2 bomber in the high desert and manages "several fully classified programs" aimed at creating the "next generation of stealth aircraft" in Palmdale, which would be adversely affected, said Leonard Figueroa, a director of engineering for Northrop. He said the projects at risk are secret and could not be publicly discussed.
The county's Regional Planning Commission approved the project on Sept. 15. Attorneys for Northrop Grumman did not file documents in objection until Friday. Attorneys for Northrop from Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton "just dropped off a stack of materials Friday afternoon," said Supervisor Michael Antonovich, adding that he found the last-minute timing "unprofessional."
Jack Rubens of Sheppard Mullin said experts needed time to review the Environmental Impact Report for the project, which they didn't receive
"The goal is to allow this project and others to go forward," said Rubens. But his client sought to delay the project until they could work out alternatives with the county.
Antonovich said he understood that the company was positioning itself to ask for payments from the county to mitigate the cost of making operational changes. The supervisor noted that public hearings were held in June and September and detailed the long history of the permitting process more than once during the discussion, trying to refute Rubens' allegation that the defense contractor learned of the project only after it was approved.
The supervisor added that he had no advance warning of Northrop's decision last January to move its headquarters and 300 to 360 jobs to northern Virginia. He learned of the move on the morning of the company's announcement to the press, he said.
The affected Northrop facility "directly supports programs employing 15,000 people in Los Angeles County," but only 15 employees work at the site, according to Figueroa.
The board's vote to allow First Solar Inc. to proceed with the project was unanimous.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Los Angeles County Water Lawsuit and the Impact to the Land Investor

Superior Court Judge Jack Komar handed down his ruling in 2008 during the second phase of the Antelope Valley groundwater adjudication lawsuit. His ruling was that the entire Antelope Valley aquifer has” hydrologic connectivity”, and thus the entire aquifers are connected. This essentially will make it easier for the court to decide how much water can be removed annually. Once it actually decides. This lawsuit began in 1999 where Diamond Farming filed suit against Lancaster and Palmdale water entities over water rights.
It now involves hundreds in a class action lawsuit (case #1-05-CV-049053), and essentially all Antelope Valley property owners, and residents wishing to remove water from the aquifer.

According to the US Geological Survey the aquifers in Antelope Valley are recharged primarily by infiltration of stream flow that originates in the mountainous areas that surround the valley. The USGA estimated that from 1915 to 1950 average annual precipitation on the valley floor has been less than 10 inches, and runoff is minor. The maximum rate of withdrawal of about 400,000 acre feet per year was about 10 times the estimated annual recharge to the basin. An acre foot is about 325,850 gallons, or approximately the amount of water it takes to cover a football field to the depth of one foot. Water removed from storage in the aquifers has been a major part of the ground water withdrawals, and severe water level declines have resulted over the years. By about 1950, studies showed that ground-water withdrawals in the valley were greatly in excess of natural recharge and withdrawals were curtailed. Los Angeles County acquires water from numerous methods now.

Data indicates there is an abundant water supply in the valley. The primary sources of water are groundwater, surface water, and imported surface water while groundwater has been the primary source of water in the area. Prior to 1972, it provided more than 90 percent of the total water supply; after 1972, it provided between 50 and 90 percent. Groundwater is stored in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Basin and sources indicate it has an estimated capacity of 68 million acre-feet with a recharge rate of 31,200 to 80,400 acre feet per year. The primary source of surface water is the Littlerock Reservoir with a capacity of 3,500 acre feet. The imported surface water arrives from the State Water Project (also known as the California Aqueduct). Under the State Water Project the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency is contracted to deliver 160,000 acre-feet per year to the Antelope Valley.

Los Angeles County has needed more and more water over the decades. William Mulholland found the water the growing city needed in the Owens Valley and constructed the aqueduct, but even more water has been demanded. According to Aquafornia’s website the Colorado River Aqueduct brings water from the Colorado River to Southern California for urban uses, and the Imperial Irrigation District operates the Imperial Dam and All American Canal, which supplies water for irrigation in the Imperial Valley. The State Water Project brings water from the San Francisco Bay Delta and delivers it to farmers in the Central Valley, as well as providing water for urban uses in Southern California. Los Angeles County has been able to grow via these water aqueducts, and Lancaster and Palmdale can benefit in their future growth also.

The Antelope Valley groundwater adjudication lawsuit will primarily impact farming and property owners on unincorporated Los Angeles County land, where water wells are the norm. The court outcome is unknown, but the leaning appears to be limited water extraction from the aquifer being more likely. Would that mean a meter on your well, farming limits, and reduced custom home development, possibly? This can also have an impact on the value of County land, where little to no water means lower prices. As Lancaster and Palmdale grow then these cities will need to annex more county land and thus providing access to city water. Better valued land investment would be land in or near the current city limits until this lawsuit is settled.

The last date for a court hearing was November 11th and the topic was (3) Motion by New Anaverde to Substitute Parties and Permit Filing and Service of Supplemental Cross-Complaint; (4) Notice of Related Case filed by Tejon Ranch Corp (Burrows v. Tejon Ranch Corp, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. MC 021281), this is an issue the land investors need to be aware of and we will keep you informed here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

California High Speed Rail to Break Ground in Central Valley in 2011 and Eventually Tracking a Path to Palmdale, Ca. But, Is It a Train to Nowhere?

The Federal Government seems to be forcing the hand of The California High Speed Rail Authority. Recently, the Feds provided $715 million toward the rail system. The CalHighSpeed Rail Authority press release this week stated that the Federal Railroad Administration forwarded their requirement that the full amount of the $4.3 billion be allocated to infrastructure investment for the proposed system in California’s Central Valley. These funds have to be directed to the rail lines from Merced to Fresno or Fresno to Bakersfield. These funds were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and California has received more funds of this type then any other State.

We wonder if this is choreographed or a knee jerk political reaction by the Obama Administration to reward California for staying in the Democrats Camp. GOP elected Rep. Mica trashed the idea of having the federal government continuing to fund a Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line, as he spoke to the Associated Press this week “I am a strong advocate of high-speed rail, but it has to be where it makes sense,” Mica said. “The administration squandered the money, giving it to dozens and dozens of projects that were marginal at best to spend on slow-speed trains to nowhere. The Republicans and the Obama Administration differ in how to pay for fast trains as a Republican Congress wants the rail transportation system to be self supporting, but the Obama Administration expects states like Ohio and Wisconsin to absorb operating losses for their rail systems. California lacks the funds to absorb losses. The newly elected Governor of Ohio John Kasich said via news reports that “the train is dead” He was referring to the Ohio slow passenger train from Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Also, The Wisconsin Republican Governor Elect Scott Walker promised to cancel the Wisconsin High Speed rail (Milwaukee to Madison). BizTimes Daily reported this week that the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation told contractors to halt work on the $810 million project.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark said in their press release
“The Central Valley is indeed key to creating the core of a true high-speed rail system in California, as that is where our trains will travel truly high speeds of 220 miles per hour,” van Ark said. “But no matter where we start building, the goal remains the same: a statewide high-speed rail system up and running in 2020 connecting the Bay Area with the metropolitan area of Los Angeles and Anaheim, that creates thousands of jobs, improves air quality, and provides us all with a cheaper, faster and more convenient way to travel.”

The Mercury News indicated that the agency says it could build just half of the 50-mile track from San Francisco to San Jose section with the funds available while they can build the entire 60 miles Merced to Fresno corridor or 113-mile Fresno to Bakersfield span. In Southern California, the authority thinks it could build two thirds of the 30 mile stretch. "We have to build a system that is going to be operable as soon as possible and that means building many miles of track that are connected to each other," van Ark said.
But a Central Valley segment will have no operational significance van Ark said major population centers need to be linked and the agency will not bother starting service there.
"We will not have trains when we build this first segment," he said. CalHighSpeedRail Authority release also indicated that they will discuss target constructions locations and other business in their next meeting in December.

We have tempered our celebration since at first glance this would be a track to nowhere, with only rails, bridges, with empty stations, and no train or passengers. This is not a proposal that a Republican influenced Congress would approve as it will not pay for itself. Would Governor Elect Brown call this living within our means? Would the Chinese Banks cover the additional funds needed?

A possible land investment opportunity could be buying land ahead of the rails especially near Fresno, Ca. as that city is certain to be on the trains map. We will keep track of this news and events as it progresses.

Monday, November 1, 2010

California Lands the Worlds Largest Solar Project in Ivanpah, San Bernardino County

Ground is to be broken for a massive solar thermal plant in California’s Mojave Desert this week. It is called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. The Estimated cost is two billion and the first to be built on Federal Land (Bureau of Land Management). It has passed a number of environmental hurdles, but it does impose on the desert tortoise habitat. The company operating the system BrightSource Energy indicated via press reports that they will assist in the relocation of the tortoise.
This project is truly massive as it encompasses about 3,600 acres (about 1,458 hectares) and it will involve 346,000 mirrors, each about the size of a billboard. The mirrors project the suns rays toward a 460 foot tower. The heat turns the fluid in the tower into steam which generates electricity. Construction begins next week and it is expected to be completed by 2013 according to the Los Angeles Times. It should produce 370 megawatts which can supply 140,000 homes with the energy being furnished to Southern California Edison and PG&E. There is actually a rush to begin this project and several other solar projects by the end of 2010 as a federal financing program will cover up to 30 percent of the construction cost, but it must begin by the end of the year news reports indicated. According to BrightSource Energy’s website there will be additional new financing from NRG Energy of $300 million which secures NRG as the largest ownership stake in the project. Both companies with Bechtel Corp will work together on construction, equity, ownership and operation.

Ivanpah is approximately fifty miles northwest of Needles, Ca and five miles west of the Nevada border in San Bernardino County. It is just off Hwy 15 and 164. There will be approximately one thousand construction workers on the project, which will be set to begin this winter season, as summer temperatures in Ivanpah can be 110 degrees on average.
There isn’t a town in the area as this location is just open desert land with the only current signs of civilization being a rail road and highway. The opportunity in the immediate future maybe to build a general store to supply the new workers as there isn’t any real development in this area now.

Today Southern California’s Mojave Desert has two of the world’s largest Green Energy projects with the Mega Wind project (Alta Wind Energy Center) in Tehachapi and now Ivanpah. Both of these locations were vacant unused and undeveloped land parcels, so the opportunities for land investors are in this Antelope Valley region. Profitable land investment opportunities are growing in this area and we will continue to inform you here as projections progress.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Virgin Galactic First Manned Free Flight Debuts in Kern Counties Mojave Air and Spaceport

The first free flight of the SpaceShipTwo (VSS Enterprise) craft began this week after a series of captive carry flights. The captive carry flights are flights where SpaceShipTwo is attached to its mother ship WhiteKnightTwo (aka:Eve after Sir Richard Branson’s mother) which took place earlier this year in March. The free flight confirmed that the VSS Enterprise’s flight systems were all functioning correctly. News reports quote the pilot Peter Siebold saying “That was a real joy to fly,” “especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders.” Virgin Galactic plans to enter into commercial operations once all testing is complete. The craft will be taken up to a high altitude by a conventional plane then released at which point, a rocket booster will propel the craft out of the atmosphere. Its reentry would be similar to NASA’s Space Shuttle with a controlled glide to a predefined landing point

It took place in California's Mojave Desert at the Mojave Air and Space Port in the center of Mojave, Ca. between Hwy 14 and Hwy 58 and just north of Edward Airforce Base in Kern County. Flight testing activities have been centered in Mojave since the early 1970s as there is limited population. In addition, being near Edwards Airforce base restricted airspace is ideal for testing. It is also been an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle, and a famous moth ball fleet site of unused commercial planes covering the horizon. The FAA has given the airport spaceport status through 2014. It has recently gained fame as a Spaceport with Virgin Galactic but other private space companies like XCOR Aerospace a rocket engine and spaceflight development company, Orbital a satellite launch and manufacturer, Masten Space Systems an aerospace startup company, and Interorbital Systems which is working on a line of launch vehicles aimed at winning the Google Lunar X Prize all call Mojave their home. The area has a sparse population but very high tech ambitions. This adds to Antelope Valley’s a reputation for flight as Palmdale, Ca Plant 42 was the original home of the B-2 Stealth Bomber.

Virgin Galactic $450 million project will eventually see six commercial vessels shuttling into space as Virgin Galactic has lined up some 370 customer deposits totaling some $50 million for what it will be the world’s first commercial passenger space flight operation. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows, one side window and one overhead, so that, if you don't want to float free in space, and you'd rather just remain in your seat, you still get a great chance to see the view.

Lancaster, Palmdale and Mojave Ca. continue to promote high tech opportunities with homegrown technologies that can’t be outsourced. The growth in Solar, Wind, Aerospace and Space technology provide long term professional jobs within a commuting proximity to Greater Los Angeles. These are the types of signs of an expanding economy, and an investment opportunity to be ahead of the curve. Landbanking is based on buying and holding undeveloped land for the near and long term. Low priced land is available today in 2010 for a good potential profit in five to ten years.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Is the California High-Speed Rail Coming Around the Corner?

AP Business news reported on Governor Swarzenegger’s trip to China promoting California products and tourism, but a main point on this overseas trip is to investigate high-speed rail technology and financing. The New York Times also reported in early April of this year about China negotiations with Sacramento to use their high speed rail technology to build the rail-line from Sacramento ultimately to San Diego. The proposed rail would initially be built from Los Angeles to Anaheim and San Francisco to San Jose and then expand from their (see A future rail stop will also be in Palmdale Ca. In the AP News article the Governor was to travel from Shanghai to Nanjing using China’s speed train. Currently China has the world’s longest high-speed rail network spanning 4300 miles, and can run up to 220 miles per hour.

The Governor is also planning stops in Japan and South Korea to experience their high speed rail systems as they are also suitors to build the California Rail System. Interesting though South Korea and China learned the technology from France and Germany which have also presented proposals to Sacramento along with Italy and Spain. The Europeans are skeptical of Chinese technology, since its European grown, so there maybe some licensing issues. There may also be labor issues as Chinese labor laws do not favor the laborer. Yet, the Chinese have preliminarily agreed to abide by all US labor laws. The NY Times indicates the cooperation agreement would entail eighty percent of the components to come from American suppliers and assemble to be done in the US. A potential site would be the previous auto plant in Fremont Ca. thereby keeping most of the jobs in the State. The largest obstacle may be financing as the project is expected to cost $46 billion, but Chinese Banks may also be the solution. Up to $8 billion has already been pledged by the Federal Government as part of the Recovery Act. The Chinese have offered to also help further finance the project. Can the US afford such a large contribution in technology and financing from a foreign power? Can the State afford not to with 12 % unemployment? Would travelers actually take the train? There are many real issues that can derail this project, yet numerous governments are also fully behind it.

Many investors in Lancaster and Palmdale have been looking for signs of growth, so the potential for a rail line with the expansion of Solar and Wind technology in the Valley does show current and future expansion. The State Department of Finance is also expecting population growth from 2010-2015 to increase by 2 million and potentially an additional 18 million by 2040 with Southern California getting most of this growth. There looks to be speculative land opportunities still on the horizon, and Antelope Valley looks to benefit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Centennial Touts High Profile Jobs and a Self Sustainable Town in Their Development Plan

Centennial’s recent newsletter indicated they plan to provide 1.3 jobs per household, or approximately 30,000 in all, over its 20-year development period. They indicated that their plan will ultimately cut down on the overall environmental impact of the area by using green technology. In their job creation they hope to attract higher educated professionals and higher wage earners in the scientific, and technical industries, but also to have opportunities for all skill levels.
Centennial commissioned LAEDC ( Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation)
to assist them in locating the best business prospects for the area in the coming years. The LAEDC indicated that construction would be the second highest target job sector. Centennial plans to need approximately 30,000 construction workers just to build the project over the 20 year building process. They are also hoping to attract a large secondary education institution, and a medical facility. In addition, due to the low prices of land in the Antelope Valley they hope to attract manufacturing businesses in the electronic fields. Low priced land and nearby services and facilities with a higher educated workforce should spurn education, healthcare and manufacturing development. Green technology is rapidly growing in Lancaster, Palmdale and Kern Counties with Wind and Solar, so it is already beginning. They expect a multiplier effect where one job produces the need for more jobs and services like retail, community services, and ideally these wage earners will wish to live in Centennial with likely 70,000 jobs created in the area over time. The nearby Tejon Industrial Complex where Hwy 5 and Hwy 99 meet at the bottom of the Grapevine employs one thousand people at IKEA, Oneida, and Famous Footwear, so they have history and success in their past developments.
It looks like Centennial has a real plan to build this upscale city. They intend to complete it slowly and methodically unlike other nearby city planners. We believe that as the development progresses the vacant land in this area will become more desirable and increase in price. We will keep you informed here to the progress in this area and land investment opportunities that arise. This is just another sign that the Antelope Valley shows good long term investment opportunities.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Significant Ecological Land Areas of Los Angeles Counties, Antelope Valley, To Buy Or Not to Buy SEA Land?

The Antelope Valley and Surrounding areas of Santa Clarita, and parts of Kern County have significant ecological areas (SEA) which were designated in the county's 1980 General Plan. They are intended to protect wildlife migration corridors and valuable habitat for native plants, birds and mammals. Los Angeles County officials define a significant ecological area as an important habitat for native plants and animals or fragile land or water area. Some of the plants and animals in these areas are the Joshua Tree Woodland, alkali scrub, scrub oak, creosote, California poppy, wildflower grasslands, ephemeral streams, burrowing owls, ground squirrels, desert tortoise, bobcats and coyotes.

The name, number and location of these areas near Antelope Valley are San Francisquito Cyn. (19) north of Valencia endangered fish Santa Clara River(23) Santa Clarita Valley endangered fish Edwards AFB (47) north of Lancaster endangered plants Big Rock Wash (48) Antelope Valley wildlife habitat Little Rock Wash (49) near Palmdale wildlife habitat Rosamond Lake (50) N.E. of Lancaster alkali sink Saddleback Butte east of Lancaster wildlife refuge, State Park (51) desert wildflowers Alpine Butte (52) east of Palmdale wildlife, wildflowers Lovejoy Butte (53) east of Palmdale wildlife habitat Piute Butte (54) east of Palmdale birds, wildlife Desert-Montane east of Palmdale wildlife habitat Transect (55) Ritter Ridge (56) west of Palmdale Joshua trees Fairmont & Antelope west of Lancaster refuge for birds buttes (57) of prey Portal Ridge/Liebre near Gorman diverse plant life Mountain (58) Tehachapi Foothills (59) near Gorman wildflowers Joshua Tree Woodland (60) N.W. of Lancaster Joshua trees Kentucky Springs (61) south of Palmdale Great Basin sage Lyon Cyn (63) Valencia woodland habitat Valley Oaks Savannah (64) Valencia valley oak habitat

Growth in these unincorporated SEA areas of the Antelope Valley is limited but not prohibited. There is currently development in these areas, and homes can be built in the Joshua Tree Woodlands, but you will not see urban sprawl like there is in Lancaster and Palmdale, Ca. The SEA areas are guided by the Los Angeles County Antelope Valley Area Plan. The Area Plan designates each property for a particular land use, such as rural residential, urban residential, commercial, or agriculture. In addition, the Area Plan includes a movement plan for trails, bike routes and highways, provisions for the protection of environmentally sensitive areas, and specific policies for each town in the unincorporated area. There was a proposal to preserve over 200,000 acres of Eastern and Western Antelope Valley as a Significant Ecological Zone. That plan earlier this decade would have limited the development of any home in an SEA area to one home per ten acres. Those targeted areas included the Joshua Tree Woodlands and most of the Eastern Antelope Valley from the city limits of Lancaster and Palmdale to San Bernardino County. That proposal was not adopted. Recently there have been a number of Solar Facilities which have gotten approval at of near SEA Zones, so there has been development in or near these areas. In addition a recreational racetrack is nearing approval near the poppy reserve.

Land investors who own land in these areas or those who plan to invest should consider the positives and negatives of any investment in a SEA zone as development is restricted. Some of these areas could be mitigation areas, where the Bureau of Land Management would approve a developer to develop in another area if they buy a SEA zoned area and donate its use and protection to the park service. This mitigation exchange is quite common. Investment due diligence is necessary when making a long term investment.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mojave Solar Project Gets Initial Green Light With Assistance From Rosamond and California City

The Antelope Valley Press recently reported a potential approval of a $950 million Solar Plant in Mojave Ca. The plant is proposed on 2000 acres off of Hwy 14. The California Energy Commission has given a 30 day period for public opinion on the proposed project. The issue that may halt the project is its need for fourteen hundred acres of water per year, as water is scarce in the desert. The proposal from the developer is to use treated water and or sewage water from the two local communities of Rosamond and California City. E-Solar has proposed a similar solution for their facility in Lancaster, Ca. E-Solar proposes to use runoff and treated water and further naturally treat it on 100 acres in Fox Field. The Mojave Solar project requires water because it relies on a solar thermal design by using mirrors to capture and reflect the suns raze to a network of tubes. Liquid in the tubes is heated thus in turn powers a steam turbine that produces electricity. The AVPress indicates that officials in the city of Rosamond and California City have agreed to supply the treated water.

This project will be at least the fifth new solar power project in the Antelope Valley in the last two years, clearly making the valley a developing green zone. The project appears to have the approval of the Energy Committee, and local city officials. It is miles from any real development, so there will likely not be much residential disapproval. Once the project gets the green light then it would take two years to construct and would employ just over fifty full time employees. It will likely be the only development for tens of miles.

This type of land currently sells for below two thousand an acre showing that the developer has been cost conscious. All of this land is simply desert land and zoned rural residential and agricultural use, but there is nothing that grows in this type of environment. Without solar this area would have very slow growth. We are encouraged by the development, but we wouldn’t recommend buying this land so far north of California City. It would be better to be closer to a growing area like Rosamond or Lancaster Ca.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mega Wind Project Set To Get Underway Near Mojave Desert

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the Alta Wind Energy Center has broken ground. The reason this project is considered mega is how it started and the overall plan. It is considered the largest wind power project in the US today. The project has had multiple ownership changes since 2000, the original planner went bankrupt and it has not been well received by the local community. The developer Terra-Gen Power has since taken over the project and they have begun breaking ground for the 290 turbines over the nine thousand acres along the Tehachapi Pass. They have also secured over a billion in funding, and are set to receive turbines from Vestas-American Wind Technology. The plan is to provide power to six hundred thousand homes to Southern California Edison customers as they are compelled to meet the State goal of supplying thirty three percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The next faze will involve another 300 turbines by 2015 with potential wind blades being nearly a football field long. The entire project will dwarf the existing landscape of turbines along the pass. Most of this area is farm land along Hwy 58 tucked away among the mountains. Also most of the land is being leased for this project providing an income source and allowing future cattle grazing for farmers.

This type of land in the past sold for less than five hundred an acre not long ago. It was considered unusable or only suitable for agricultural use. It demonstrates that long term land investment can be a patient and lucrative endeavor. There is still an abundance of available vacant land in Kern County and Los Angeles County that is prime for industrial uses like Wind Energy Projects. Many wind tests and planning has been completed over the years, which verifies this area as a prime wind energy location. In this case the permitting process took three years and the project had numerous environment hurdles to overcome. In the end the Alta project will begin.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The 1031 Exchange Process Taken Step by Step

1. You will need to set up an exchange account with an authorized 1031 exchange firm. The 1031 account has to be opened before the close of escrow on the property being sold. It can be done in a rush, but it is best to have this process planned in advance with the escrow company.

2. Write up the 1031 Exchange terminology in the sales contract or escrow instructions. The appropriate 1031 language should be added to the sales contract or escrow instructions for the property being sold. The exchange company can draw up the proper language.

3. Execute the exchange agreement with the escrow company and exchange firm with the necessary signatures and documents.

4. A like kind replacement property must be located within forty five days. A like kind property essentially means real estate for real estate. This like kind property must be located within forty five days per the IRS requirement. Once the replacement property has been identified then the sale and escrow must be completed within six months.

5. Forward the 45 day identification letter. This identification letter has to be submitted within forty five days, and the replacement property must be located and identified. This is typically the most difficult part since you need to secure the acquisition of a second property within this six week period.

6. Forward funds for deposits, this can be done from a 1031 exchange account. There is typically a form from the 1031 exchange company. It is also possible for the deposit to come from your personal account with a reimbursement later.

7. Then you must complete the execution of the escrow documents from both parties on your replacement property, and fund the purchase with your prior closed escrow funds. If the replacement property requires a loan, or it is an income property then other steps maybe needed. Thus identifying an experienced 1031 firm will assist in more complicated exchanges. Also additional funds may be needed if the replacement property has higher value then the prior sold property. Again the 1031 exchange firm can assist with these additional steps.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Solar Power Company Gets Approval to Implement Its Development Plan on Rural Residential Los Angeles County Land

A rectangular shaped parcel of just over 200 acres at 100th Street West and Ave H has won preliminary approval for solar development by the City of Lancaster planning commission. TA High Desert LLC (Tuusso Energy) plans to construct of a 20 megawatt solar photovoltaic electric generation facility on rural residential zoned land in Los Angeles County. This land has been typically vacant land or farm land, but the green energy economy has changed the future for rural Los Angeles land.
The location is designated NU (Non-Urban Residential) by the General Plan and is zoned RR 2.5 (Rural Residential 2.5 one dwelling unit per 2.5 acres), and this site is currently unused. This proposed project would operate year round with a production of up to 20 megawatts of renewable electric power during daytime hours. Tuusso Energy has a 20 year agreement with Southern California Edison to supply electricity generated by the proposed project. The project needs to clear a few environmental, biological, and mitigation steps.
The environmental review documents have disclosed no significant adverse impacts resulting from the proposed project after mitigation measures have been applied.
The photovoltaic panels and trackers are silent and low profile of six feet to eight feet depending on the position of the sun, so visual impact would be minimal. In order to further reduce any impacts, Tuusso Energy would install a line of trees along Avenue I and H, 100th Street West, and 97th Street West that would provide additional screening of the site. Additionally, two biological resource surveys were conducted for the location which found approximately 160 acres of potential foraging habitat within 10 miles of a hawk’s nest, thus the removal of the 200 acres of potential foraging habitat would be minimal. Also, mitigation measures are required to ensure that impacts to biological resources remain less than significant. Once these mitigation measures are taken the board found that the potential impacts to any special status species would be reduced. They also indicated that the projects construction and materials will not pose any environmental hazard to the local community.
This project appears to have met all the necessary requirements for implementation, and it was done in under a year. The landscape of Antelope Valley has been rapidly changing, and this exercise shows the potential for profits outside of typically residential building can be found in the valley as the State moves to green energy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Antelope Valley Groundwater Case Flows On…

There is a class action lawsuit, which is about a land owners right to pump groundwater in the Antelope Valley. This lawsuit addresses a property owner’s right to pump their own water beneath their property. Currently State Law allows property owners to pump and use groundwater beneath the surface on their land. In Los Angeles County, however, the naturally available supply of water in the Antelope Valley Basin may not be adequate to satisfy everyone who wants to use that water.
The suit is the Willis Class Action which requests the Court to rule that private landowners in the Antelope Valley who do not presently pump water on their properties retain the right to use the water underlying their properties. The Court has not yet ruled on these claims. This will affect land owners who wish to build custom homes on county land, but not city residents. Most of Antelope Valley is rural residential and agricultural land, so the ruling targets private land owners and farmers.
The Case Number is 1-05-CV-049053 at Santa Clara County Court under Judge Komar, with the next calendar date set for July 15, 2010. The schedule indicates that this will be the deadline for expert witness disclosure and exchange of expert witness information, including any reports prepared by such experts, and any party who intends to call non-expert witnesses to provide percipient testimony must file their statements listing such witness(s). The court calendar is set through Sept. 27, 2010 where the Court Trial Phase 3 takes place, (Status of Valley Aquifer and Issue of Overdraft)10 days with all discovery to be completed 30 days before trial and all motions shall be heard no later than 15 days before trial date.
The lawsuit has been dragging on for years now with the essential position by Los Angeles County claiming adverse possession, and rescinding property owner and residents' rights to their own water? We will keep you updated here as this litigation progresses.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Solar Land Grab Continues As Two Los Angeles County Solar Projects Have Been Purchased by First Solar

The San Fernando Valley Business Journal has indicated that First Solar Inc. recently acquired a current project undertaken by Nextlight Renewable Power LLC (a solar module company). First Solar is reported to have acquired the project in a deal worth $285 million. The purchase of NextLight Renewable Power project at 170th West at Ave D near Lancaster, Ca. is the latest by First Solar as part of its strategy to acquire companies with projects already in development.
NextLight’s project AV Solar Ranch One is a 230-megawatt photovoltaic solar panel facility west of Lancaster, which they only recently started in late 2009. This project compliments some existing solar facilities that First Solar has in Riverside County and in Blythe. According to First Solar’s press release the Riverside County project will produce enough power for 160,000 homes.

The Antelope Valley Press reported earlier this year that First Solar Inc. had acquired a couple of solar power projects in their early development by Edison Mission Energy, which is the power generation division of Edison International. These two projects acquired by First Solar are photovoltaic projects one near Lake Los Angeles at 240th East at Ave S and the other near Mojave in Kern County.
According to AVPress, Allison Gatlin’s report "They purchased the entire development pipeline," said Bob Steins, public affairs manager for Edison International. The 150-megawatt Gray Butte plant (240th East at S) is in the permitting process with Los Angeles County. These latest acquisitions are private land purchases on previously farmed land. The company has previously purchased public land under the Bureau of Land Management which has fast tracked the permit process. These two projects in Antelope Valley are only in the planning and permitting stages, so the plants can be built to suit First Solar’ project needs. These solar projects should compliment the landscape of Antelope Valley as they will be situated on Los Angeles County Land outside the city limits of Lancaster and Palmdale, Ca. and primarily be invisible to residents.

These solar companies have bought low priced land at the low end of the market paving the way for reduced prices for other land investors. Land investment has been a great hedge against inflation and over the years has proven to be a fantastic long term investment. Ideal developable parcels have been bought by housing and solar companies leaving great opportunities for IRA investments to buy land near these developments.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vacant Building Gets a New Tenant

Just last month Macy’s announced it will open a store in Palmdale, CA, beginning in the fall of 2010. The single story location is 110,000-square-feet. Now Macy’s will be located in the Antelope Valley Mall at the former Gottschalk’s location, and this will be Macy’s first presence in the Antelope Valley.
Macy’s press release indicated it will offer a full range of apparel and accessories for women, men and children, as well as housewares, home textiles and luggage, and the store will employ approximately 130 associates.
The previous department store chain Gottschalks Inc had stores in California, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho, but put itself up for sale and then filed to reorganize in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January of 2009. The location has been vacant for over a year now, and caused a blight in the mall.
The other anchor stores are JC Penny’s, Sears, and Dillard’s with smaller national chains like Pier 1 Imports, Men’s Wearhouse, and 24-Hour Fitness.
The Mall opened in 1990 and it actually sits above a wash of snow runoff from the neighboring San Gabriel Mountains. Land in this area sold for under a thousand an acre because of the wash, while unencumbered land sold for much much more. The city devised a wash channel via pipelines which now runs beneath today’s Mall. Prior land speculators saw the opportunity back in the 70’s and 80’s as Macy’s has found a new location for their expansion.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

160+ acres at 50th Street West & Avenue H, The Development That Didn't

This large swath of land in Los Angeles County has had a proposed amendment to the General Plan land use from rural residential agricultural land (one dwelling per 2.5 acres) to a proposal for R-7000 urban residential (one dwelling unit per a minimum net area of 7,000 square feet). It would entail a subdivision for 655 single family residential lots in the R-7,000 Zone. The Planning Commission undertook a resolution to adopt the recommendation to deny the General Plan Amendment of zone change. The Planning Commission sent a letter in January requesting a response to the property owner’s engineering department regarding their project. If there was no response then the commission would recommend denial of the project, which had originally begun in October 2004. As there wasn’t an environmental review of the project, hence the property owner’s inaction was the indication that they were giving up their plans. To date no environmental progress has been made, and it cannot move forward without the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). As the project requires the application payment and a redesign of the plans, thus the inaction by the property owner forced the planning commission to deny the zone change.

Many investors may have purchased land in this area in anticipation of the zone change and potential housing track of hundreds of homes. The real estate foreclose rate in Lancaster and Palmdale has been significant, and most of those foreclosed homes have been repurchased by investors for a fraction of their prior value. The outlook for new housing in the valley has curtailed plans by this developer and others as there has been a few mapper’s who have dissolved their plans to develop a number of parcels on the east and west side of Lancaster and Palmdale. A loss for some can be an opportunity for another.

As land prices have dropped then low priced pre-developed land opportunities become available. The most recent low prices in land came after the Internet bubble in 2000 to 2004. Prices increased dramatically after that to the highs of 2006 and 2007. Buying at the end of the recession and selling at the top of the next wave has proved to be prudent for a number of investors. Unfortunately, many investors buy at market highs and sell in desperation when the market is at its lows. This current time frame is a much better period to look into pre-developed land investment. Pre-developed land has the greatest increase in potential value, since undeveloped land is much lower in price. Once development occurs in the area then Commercial and Housing companies need the land based on its proximity to other development. These developers have the funds to buy at $100,000 or more per acre for the right type of property. Today an investor can pay less then half that price. If you are looking for an opportunity for your IRA, or 401k then contact us and we can locate prime opportunity low priced land options.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Antelope Valley Weed Abatement Notice and the Responsibility to the Vacant Land Investor

Los Angeles County via the Dept. of Agricultural Commissioner Weights and Measures has increased its Annual Weed Abatement Notices. There have been a number of properties in Lancaster and Palmdale California which have gotten this notice for the first time. The Abatement Notice levied to properties when an abundant amount of weeds, brush, neglected vegetation or trash has accumulated on properties. This includes homes and vacant lots. In addition, properties were sited if these weeds are located near a house or structure as they create potential fire hazards to all homes. Specifically in Antelope Valley there is a special notice. If your property has a large amount of tumbleweeds, which can roll onto roads, damage agriculture crops or build up near homes and fences then your property can be sited. If you are sited then the responsibility of the property owner is to clear the dry weeds or brush within one hundred to two hundred feet from a home or structure, and ten feet from a road.

Some owners are getting this notice and they do not have an abundant amount of weeds on the property. It is because of the special information regarding tumbleweeds. Because of environmental factors, inspections and abatement of the current season’s growth of tumbleweeds on parcels in the Antelope Valley will not begin until Oct of 2010. We surmise the Department of Agriculture will wait until the end of the summer season to see if tumbleweeds have rolled onto your property.

There have been hearings in late February for property owners who wish to present objections to their notice. After April 1, 2010 the County will be inspecting properties for excessive weeds and brush. If property owners have not inspected their parcels and cleared bush per the notice then the county will begin enforcement of the notice and clear excessive weeds, and the cost of the county abatement will be assessed to the property tax bill. If the property owner has not cleared the property themselves by March 15, 2010 then the county abatement team is on its way. The county has already assessed an inspection fee of $45 even if the property owner cleared the brush themselves. If the county hires independent firms to enforce the notice then the abatement fee will be much more expensive then if the property owner were to maintain their own parcel. In addition, if you received the notice and sold the property then the sited property owner will be liable for the assessed abatement fees, and not the new owner.

These abatement notices may increase over the years as Antelope Valley grows, so it is important to view your property periodically and maintain any debris and vegetation. The debris issue is a separate issue as people have used remote parts of the valley as a private dump. The land investor has less issues then the home investor but still must invest with responsibility.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Los Angeles County Attracts Another Renewable Energy Project As Antelope Valley and Agricultural Land Benefit with the Development

Another Solar company is taking up roots in Antelope Valley. Tuusso Energy headquartered in Seattle Washington with a medium size project, which can power up to 15 thousand homes and connects directly to existing transmission lines. The proposed location is on LA County land and it is a rectangle shaped area at 100th Street West running north to south from Ave H to approximately Ave I-8. This area is just south of the community of Antelope Acres, and it is just north of Edison power lines that cris-cross the western valley. Their technology uses photovoltaic panels which look very similar to rooftop panels. The benefits with photovoltaic’s are that they use a limited amount of water and they are low profile as they stand just a few feet above the ground.

Tuusso’s project proposal has been underway for a year and they are currently conducting environmental studies with Los Angeles County and local government agencies. As part of the environmental impact, they have targeted dormant agricultural land away from any current major development. It is not known if this land has been previously disturbed land, or simply vacant agricultural land. The environmental impact may be the biggest hurdle to overcome as the State and local governments are favorable to renewable energy projects, but environmentalists prefer limited change. The production is expected to begin later this year and run through early 2011. Lancaster Ca. has proposed a number of zoning changes within the city limits to entice alternative energy projects within its boundaries, so many more projects are sure to arise.

This is the fourth and separately planned renewable energy project on LA County land in the Antelope Valley. It is sure to change the landscape dramatically, but change for the valley will be good for the economy and community. The agricultural land targeted is a big bonanza for the long-term land banker. This area was vacant land for decades caught between power lines, and a pocket of custom homes. It further highlights that agricultural zoned pre-developed land provides a great investment opportunity. These Solar Companies are capturing lower real estate prices during this downturn, and it is a good time for new investors to take advantage of this land banking opportunity also.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The City of Lancaster California is Proposing Land Development Changes to Establish Three Separate Mixed Use Zones

The City of Lancaster, Ca. Planning Department is forwarding new recommendations in conjunction with their 2030 General Plan. The focal point of their recent meeting is to draft new zoning changes for the city, and to incorporate several mixed use proposals. The City of Lancaster, Ca. currently doesn’t have mixed use development, while cohabitating residential and commercial zoning has been implemented in numerous cities across America. A typical mixed use would be street level retail shops on main roads with single family or multiple family dwellings above. Most of Lancaster Ca. has been single family dwellings in proximity to commercial buildings. It has been a typical small town growing without the future planning of the needs of the community. It’s a sort of plan as you grow, instead of planning growth. The mixed use proposal will make Lancaster look more like Orange County’s growth and development, which has been the new normal.

The three proposed mixed use zonings will be Mixed Use-Neighborhood (MU-N), Mixed Use-Commercial (MU-C), and Mixed Use-Employment (MU-E). The mixed use neighborhood zone would incorporate residential housing in close proximity to commercial, offices and services. It would include multi-family housing, such as apartments and condominiums, small-lot single-family subdivisions, and smaller commercial and office space. The streets patterns would allow better traffic flow, and it would offer pedestrian connections, community space with trails and neighborhood parks.

The mixed use commercial would integrate residential and commercial space together. The commercial space would most likely be along major artery streets, with modern landscaping. It will also have multi-storied buildings which must contribute to the areas surroundings. The third zoning change proposal is mixed use employment. This zone is intended to provide an area for non-retail employment in close proximity to residential housing. It would likely include multi-family residential dwellings with office professional, business parks, and some light industrial uses. This zone is not intended for heavier industrial uses.

The two major target areas for this new zoning will be south of Ave H from 20th to 40th Street West, and also along Sierra Hwy and Division south of Ave I. As the city grows so does the opportunity for land investors. We think this is a very positive step toward the future for land buyers in Antelope Valley. Most of these areas are currently vacant land parcels, but it will be a future location for a developer. Many large chain stores wish to locate their business near residential neighborhoods as it has been part of their business model. Land prices today are far less then they were just three years ago, so this is a good time to look at vacant land deals in Antelope Valley.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Los Angeles County Lands Best Renewable Sustainable Project with a Patented Solar Complex built on Pre-Developed Industrial Land

Power Engineering magazine announced this past December the selection of E-Solar’s Sierra SunTower facility as the winner of "Best Renewable and Sustainable Project" at the 2009 Projects of the Year Awards. This is an annual award where Power Engineering magazine recognizes the world's best projects in the four major categories, gas-fired, coal-fired, nuclear and renewable. The new solar power facility is the first of its kind in California.

E-Solar unveiled Sierra SunTower, which is their 5 MW commercial-scale solar power plant, in August 2009. It is located just 60 miles north of downtown Los Angeles in Lancaster California. The solar complex runs along Avenue G in the northern part of the city. This renewable energy facility captures the suns energy to produce super-heated steam with an average operating temperature of 800°F at a pressure of 900 psi, which it delivers through a turbine generator to Southern California Edison. Their patented technology uses Pre-fabricated modular units that are scalable to fit smaller or larger parcels of land to suit their power client’s requirements. This project was developed on a small parcel of land close to existing transmission lines, and it is the first of several planned in Antelope Valley, California.

This is one part of the City of Lancaster’s 2030 General Plan to create fertile ground for renewable energy projects. The planning department has approved of thousands of additional acres of heavy and light industrial land as a target area for these types of projects. They plan to further expand this area by amending the zoning to absorb rural residential and agricultural zoned land for heavy industrial use. This would be the largest expansion of Los Angeles County land into city zoning in decades. It is also one of the best means for a land investor to get a rapid return on their investment.

It is paramount for land investors and land bankers to buy land near developing areas such as Lancaster and Palmdale California. The closer you are to development the more likely development will reach your parcel. In many cases the initial investment can be more, but the return on investment could be shorter term. We have spoken to vacant land owners who purchased remote desert land far from development and they are unfortunately still holding decades after their initial investment. Don’t let it happen to you, as the real estate slogan goes location, location, location also applies to pre-developed land.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

City Of Lancaster Proposing New Zoning Changes As Part of the 2030 General Plan

The City of Lancaster has proposed zoning changes throughout the city limits. Some target areas will be the area south of Avenue G to H which has been proposed to be heavy industrial and it will run from Hwy 14 east to Division and then it will run south of H along Sierra Hwy to Ave I. There will also be almost a square mile of light industrial from Hwy 14 west to 20th West from H to I. They also target great deal of light and heavy industrial from Hwy 14 east to Challenger within avenues L to M. The industrial zoning changes are designed for Solar and Wind Energy firms to entice them to locate within the city of Lancaster. There will also be more R-7000 and R-10,000 residential from Ave I south and Hwy 14 to 70th Street West. A good amount of this area has been RR 2.5 only allowing 1 home per 2 acres, but with R-7000 zoning developers can build track homes of one house per 7000 square feet. In addition, the land surrounding the County Jail and Hospital at West Ave I and J will be virtually surrounded by light industrial zoning and commercial at 50th W at J.

This new zoning draft review took place Feb. 16th at the Lancaster Planning Commission meeting. It is part of the City of Lancaster 2030 General Plan. Another part of the proposal is for mixed used (MU) zoning adopted as part of the overall plan. A large portion of this proposed mixed use will be from 20th to 35th West and from H to I. The public will be allowed to review the draft proposal and the earliest the mixed use zoning can be adopted would be April of this year.
These proposed changes can really change the value of land especially land that is changed from RR 2.5 to R-7000 or R-10,000.
The City of Lancaster seems to be progressive and aggressively toward business growth, which can produce a vibrant economy for the cities future.
We will keep you updated as the plans progress, so stay tuned to our reports.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Los Angeles County Rural land Soon to become a Race Track?

The proposed racetrack is approaching the finish line. The Fairmont Butte Motor Sports Park ( has been proposed on 320 acres of land at 150th Street West at Hwy 138. The property owner and founder is Thomas E. Malloy. The Los Angeles County planning commission recently recommended the project at the September 2009 meeting. There are several more hurdles to jump, but the meeting this coming Saturday February 6th at the Lancaster Regional Library may go a long way to making this project a reality.

The proposed track is situated on privately owned land in Antelope Valley. Most of this area is vacant unused land or farmland in the remote area west of Lancaster, Ca. The track will be open to the public with no memberships required. The plan is not for commercial use, but for private motor car enthusiasts, car clubs, and racing organizations. The track will carve around Fairmont Butte just west of the poppy preserve.

The plans indicate that the racetrack would only use 140 of the available acreage and operate only during the daytime, and there would be no grandstands, allowing for only a few spectators. Racing would only take place on weekends and on occasional Fridays. The main obstructions that may upend the proposal are environmental issues. The few nearby residents could be exposed to excessive noise once it is up and running. It could also affect the area's wildlife, which includes lizards, badgers and burrowing owls, and it will be only a mile from the state protected wildflower poppy preserve. Environmentalists also indicated this area is also home to seasonal wildflowers, California buckwheat scrub and purple needle grass typically grow there. The racetrack group indicates that they will minimized these environmental issues by restricting noise, limiting racing and traffic and independent studies show that while there will be some impact to habitat, there would be no impact to wildlife movement or to the Poppy Reserve. In addition, the Fairmont Butte offers a natural barrier to noise and helps maintain the areas natural beauty.

There are also several Solar power companies forwarding proposals to develop this area, so the terrain will likely change rapidly in the coming years. Most private land owners and investors have looked for development and changes in this primarily rural vacant land. Property prices will likely increase in the coming years due to the coming growth, and we will keep you informed to these developments.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Mitigation Can Benefit the Vacant land Investor and the Environment

Environmental mitigation describes projects or programs which are intended to offset development impacts to an existing natural resource like wetlands, endangered species, rivers and streams. Environmental mitigation is typically a part of an environmental crediting system established by governing bodies like the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) which allocates debits and credits. It is similar to the government proposed cap and trade system to offset global warming. A debit to the environment would occur when a housing developer, or Wind and Solar Company plans to develop land for commercial purposes. A debit occurs when a natural resource has been destroyed or severely impaired, while a credit is given when a natural resource has been deemed to be improved or preserved. So, when a business or individual has a debit to the environment then they are required to purchase a credit. There is also mitigation banking which is typically created in advance for multiple commercial parties when compensation credits cannot be achieved at the development site. Mitigation is a friendlier alternative to restrictive environmental laws, since development can proceed in exchange for compensation to preserve or repair a natural environment. Mitigation can also be beneficial to land owners, since some land like wash land or mountain land is not developable, but it is more suitable for mitigation. This increases the value of some non-developable land miles from development.
In Northern Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County some renewable energy companies may be required to purchase mitigation land if their projects are on BLM or other undisturbed land, which may encroach within prime desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel territories. The desert tortoise roams much of the desert in San Bernardino County, which will curtail any development within their habitat. Much of this land is privately owned, and may be designated as mitigation land by the government. The Solar Farm developers may be forced to buy endangered species land before a building permit is issued. This is another example where land banking is beneficial to the long term investor. Many investors think that their property will primarily increase in value due to urban development upon their property, but in this case virtually worthless desert land becomes a needed commodity to the technological advances of solar energy companies. The new growth in Antelope Valley and San Bernardino Counties is increasingly becoming green energy development, and the wise patient land investor can benefit and preserve the environment at the same time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The City of Lancaster Planning Department is Proposing Zoning Changes to Further Wind and Solar Projects Expansion in Antelope Valley

Just this past December the City of Lancaster Planning Commission reviewed a proposal to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for wind energy uses in commercial and industrial zones, and expand solar outside of these zones. The planning department is recommending to Adopt Resolution No. 09-37 for the City Councils approval which would amend the Zoning Ordinance (Title 17 of the Lancaster Municipal Code). The order would provide regulations for co-location of small wind energy systems in commercial and industrial zones with the addition of Sections 17.12.070.W, 17.16.060.A.14, and Section 17.40.690, and Section 17.08.070.Z would allow solar electrical generating plants in rural residential zones subject to a conditional use permit. Currently, the Zoning Ordinance allows solar electrical generating plants only in heavy industrial zones with a director’s review application. In order to address the increasing demand for alternative energy, the planning staff is recommending this addition to Section 17.08.070.Z.

The City’s Zoning Ordinance is intended as a regulatory document to implement the goals, policies and objectives contained within the City’s General Plan. By approving the proposed amendments to the current Zoning Ordinance, it would further implement the policies set forth in the General Plan by allowing alternative small energy systems in the commercial and industrial zones, as well as utilizing rural residential areas to further the development of solar power plants.

This proposal and a number of other proposals shows the City of Lancaster’s increasing interest and demand to expand alternative energy projects within the city limits. There are a number of solar projects taking place outside the city limits on unincorporated Los Angeles County land. This proposal by the planning department would provide the first wind energy project within the city limits. Most of the wind energy projects are in Tehachapi, in Kern County north of Los Angeles. The proposal would also create tax revenue for the City of Lancaster, which the city doesn’t receive with County projects. Currently, the City of Lancaster has very limited heavy industrial zoning, so expanding solar projects to operate in rural residential zones expands a much wider net for solar companies. Owners of vacant unused land within the city limits of Lancaster should see a price increase for their property in the coming years if this plan gets final approval. We will keep you posted with the progress.