Planning commission delays hotel vote

Santa Clarita City Hall

Eight years of stagnation over a proposed hotel at McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard continued Tuesday night, as the Santa Clarita Planning Commission delayed approval of a five-story, 134-room plan – with members saying they were unimpressed by the architectural design.

Instead, by a 3-1 vote with one member absent, the commission continued the matter until its Nov. 15 meeting – telling the developer, Asset Builders Valencia LLC, to work with the city to tweak the building’s aesthetics and return for another try.

The project, commonly called the “Oliver Hotel Project,” would be on the site of the old Greens miniature-golf course and restaurant.

Developer Hunter Oliver, who was present for the hearing, declined comment to The Signal afterward, but clearly was not pleased by the evening’s outcome.

“We can do better,” Commissioner Charles Heffernan said of the hotel’s exterior aesthetics, adding, “This is a nice design, but it’s not something I would put in the center of the city.”

He also said the proposed architecture “doesn’t match the community character guidelines.”

He especially was looking for “more variation in roof height,” he said.
Tim Burkhart, vice chairperson of the commission, said the design “strikes me as rather plain – it looks like a dormitory.’’

City report
Associate city planner David Peterson, whose report to the commission had recommended the hotel’s approval, said the developer had already cooperated with the city on amending design plans. Peterson said the design that so underwhelmed the commissioners Tuesday night was “a vast improvement on what was originally proposed,” which was basically, “a big box.”

Peterson said that, after a city architectural review of the original plan recommended aesthetic changes, the developer came back with an improved plan featuring varying roof heights, insets, a brighter color scheme and other tweaks.

Those changes, Peterson said, addressed all the issues the city’s architectural review had raised.

Hunt C. Braly, an attorney for Oliver, also stressed to the commission that,

“We have responded” to the city’s concerns, and that the commissioners’ objections “don’t seem to be substantive problems.”

Braly told the commissioners, “We still have a willingness to be flexible,” but mentioned “the timing this applicant is facing” and cautioned that a continuation, “would be negative to the applicant. ‘’

Braly also declined to comment to The Signal after his client’s hearing.
Heffernan, Burkhart and Commissioner Diane Trautman voted to continue the matter until Nov. 15. Chairperson Dennis Ostrom, voted “no” on the motion.

Ostrom said that while “there seems to be unanimity that this is kind of plain,” he was being “sensitive to the business component.”
Commissioner Lisa Eichman was absent for the proceedings.

History on site
Hotel proposals for the site have a long history of delays.

The Oliver proposal is a scaled-down version a proposal first pitched by Sheraton in 2008 – a project that met with significant opposition from nearby residents.

That proposal, for a seven-story, 200-room hotel, was approved by the Planning Commission in 2009, but the approval was appealed to the City Council, which asked Sheraton to conduct further public outreach. Sheraton never responded to that request, and the project languished and eventually died.

Oliver bought the property and began discussions with city officials this summer on the smaller plan, which would feature five stories, 134 rooms and be 60 feet tall at its highest point. There would also be a separate restaurant and a parking lot that includes 220 spaces.

All those specifications met the approval of the commissioners – just not the aesthetics.

The Oliver group had even reached out several times in recent weeks and months to area residents to allay concerns that had been expressed over the larger 2009 Sheraton proposal.
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