Residents attend meeting to voice opinions on Newhall Ranch housing project


Some love it, some hate it, but the Newhall Ranch prospect of 21,000 homes built west of Interstate 5 in the Santa Clarita Valley remains a highly-charged issue.

More than 300 people on both sides of the issue showed up at Rancho Pico Junior High School Thursday night and expressed their opposition, or support, for two Newhall Ranch subdivisions – Landmark Village and Mission Village.

According to supporters, the plan would attract business to Santa Clarita Valley, generate tax dollars and preserve open space for families.

According to opponents, it will clog the interstate with traffic, damage the Santa Clara River and do nothing to diminish greenhouse gas emissions.

The 3-hour public meeting by Los Angeles County planners recorded the comments of community members.

Supporters of the project’s two subdivisions were the first to speak, but the opponents got the applause.

The Landmark Village community will be developed on 293 acres within Newhall Ranch and contain up to 1,444 residential units, approximately 1 million square feet of mixed-use commercial space as well as an elementary school and park.

Mission Village will be developed on 1,262 acres and contain up to 4,055 residential units and 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use commercial space, along with an elementary school, fire station and public library, among other uses.

Supporters turned the meeting into a pep rally of sorts, lauding the developers for bringing sustainable housing to the SCV.

“Newhall Ranch will help Santa Clarita grow by attracting new companies,” said John C. Calhoun, of Vanguard Management. “Controlled and planned growth can benefit the region.”

Craig Peters called Newhall Ranch “the most sustainable master planned community in the country.”

Gary Saenger called it a “game changer,” adding “Imagine all the families that will benefit from new jobs.”

Steven Corn, president of the Newhall Escrow Company, pointed out several positive features of the project including: open space, a net-zero emissions initiative, electrical charging technology for each home and cash subsidies for residents buying an electric car.

“I look to Newhall Ranch to create not only sustainable growth but to continue that positive trend to create job growth,” said Calvin D. Hedman, President of Hedman Partners of Valencia.

Dave Bossert of West Ranch reminded attendees that Newhall Ranch developers, FivePoint, were “the same group that created Valencia” and said Newhall Ranch promises to “put Santa Clarita Valley on the leading edge of development…. with top notch building quality.”

Flo Lawrence of Castaic said: “This project exemplifies sustainability.”

“We’re going to have growth in the Santa Clarita Valley so let’s have smart growth,” he said.
De’Andre Valencia, director of government affairs for the Building Industry Association of Southern California said FivePoint brings “expertise and commitment to building one of the most innovative projects in the country.”

Then the opponents took their turn at the microphone.

Longtime Santa Clarita resident Kamy Bassiri told attendees he moved here with his wife in the 1970s.

“I could not stay quiet and see this development go by and not say anything,” he said. “We came here to escape the high traffic. Now the freeway is jam packed. The I-5 and (Highway) 126 are already bogged down with a lot of cars.

“This project would bring a lot of crime to our area,” he said. “If this project goes through then I will pack up and leave.”

Kris Ohlenkamp, conservation chair of the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, said he recalls arguing against Newhall Ranch in the past.

“This project is not as disgustingly horrible as it was back then,” he said, cautioning developers not to take credit for making positive environmental changes to their plan.

“Do not take credit for that,” he said. “They were forced every step of the way to make changes by lawsuits.”

William Harwood, who works for a solar company, said: “The amazing support here is by business. For the residents, we get to suffer with horrible traffic.”

Val Verde resident Steven Lee pointed to diminished air quality saying “Val Verde and the surrounding areas will receive more particulate matter.”

Calgrove resident Frances Herskovitz described current traffic along Interstate 5 through Calgrove as a bottleneck, fearing development would only make it worse.

Bonnie Nikolai said Newhall Ranch would turn streets into “glorified parking lots.”

John Hall said: “Our endangered species should receive better protection that a 150-foot buffer zone.” Hall called the developer’s claim of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions “not believable.”

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