LANCASTER — The Lancaster Planning Commission, on Monday, approved a tentative tract map for a 123 single-family residential lot development on vacant land at Avenue K and 57th Street West that has 143 Joshua trees on it.
In October 2020, the California Fish and Game Commission designated the western Joshua tree as a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act. As such, it is illegal to remove the trees.
Prior to Monday’s Planning Commission meeting, Larissa De La Cruz, community development senior manager, said the city received a letter from the Department of Fish and Wildlife that identified several concerns, such as the Joshua tree, burrowing owls and the use of the city’s biological impact fees.
“All of which were identified and discussed in the environmental document that is part of this development application and part of your action this evening,” De La Cruz said.
The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity also sent a letter to the city in regard to the project citing the Joshua tree as an area of concern.
“They have taken the lead in listing the Joshua tree as a species to the state,” De La Cruz said. “So there is interest from them. However, we have not received any correspondence from them on other development applications. This is one of the first.”
The conditions for approval call for applicant Royal Investors Group LLC, to obtain an incidental take permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the Joshua trees to be removed from the project site. A copy of the permit shall be provided to the city prior to the issuance of any construction related permits.
In addition, should any Joshua trees be transplanted or relocated, the conditions require that it be done by a qualified biologist with oversight from the Department of Fish and Wildlife after the incidental take permit is obtained, according to the conditions of approval.
In addition, the relocation criteria includes a two-year maintenance plan for trees which have been replanted.
“The conditions of approval will require for adequate mitigation of the Joshua trees, so we’re pretty comfortable with the mitigation and the discussions that we have already provided as it relates to these issues that both the Center for Biological Diversity and Fish and Wildlife have raised,” De La Cruz said.
Kris Pinero, speaking on behalf of the developer, said that they are aware of the number of Joshua trees on the project site.
“Hopefully some of the trees could be transplanted,” Pinero said. “We’ll work closely with CFW to make sure the trees and the studies that need to be done will be moved forward.”
The commission approved the tentative tact map, conditional use permit and mitigated negative declaration on a 6-0 vote, with Commissioner Diana Cook absent.