Castaic residents love their ridge lines.
Watching the sun set against a silhouette of hilltops characteristic of Castaic is an opportunity cherished by residents. So it’s no surprise they would complain to county officials as they did in 2015 when they suddenly spotted bulldozers ploughing down the landscape.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission granted permission for the developer to grade more than a 100,000 cubic yards of ridge line – two years after the grading had already been done, and after residents had already complained.
A check with county planners about the decision, however, revealed why no one from Castaic turned out to complain Wednesday for grading of the western end of Witherspoon Parkway between Del Valle Road an Avenue Penn.
“There weren’t any speakers at the hearing,” Mitch Glaser, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, told The Signal Wednesday. “The county in conjunction with the (grading permit) applicant explained the situation to residents in 2015 and a lot of folks were not happy but they understood.”
Here’s what they were told.
When the developer of the IAC Commerce Center – formerly known as Sterling Gateway – began levelling the ground in preparation of the project in 2015, they went through the county’s proper approval process, Glaser said.
“Then they found landslide areas that had previously gone undetected,” he said. “The discovery caused for more grading to be done.”
“The (emergency) grading impacted one of the ridge lines identified by the Castaic Area Community Standards District that was not supposed to be graded,” he said. “But, because it was an emergency situation, we allowed for extra grading.
Wednesday’s grading permit describes the emergency work as grading needed to “stabilize a landslide area.”
The developer was allowed by the county to apply for unanticipated grading – after the fact – of the “slope failure,” Glaser said.
The “emergency grading” sanctioned by county planners was carried out, but did not go unnoticed by Castaic residents, he said.
“Once they saw the ridge line was being mediated, that’s when they questioned what was going on,” Glaser said.
When the emergency grading of the ridge line was carried out in the summer of 2015, and residents complained, that’s when county planners went to Castaic on “outreach missions” to explain the landslides and the emergency soil removal.
Asked about the geological anomaly that would create a landslide at the height of a four-year drought, Glaser said: “(Los Angeles County) Public Works does a geological review but this was something they couldn’t have caught.”
The site contains about 70 net acres or three million square feet of land, and will contain up to 1.3 million square feet of space, said Craig Peters, senior vice president of CBRE Group, brokers for the property’s developer. He spoke at a wall-tilting ceremony at the site held on Feb. 15.
International Airport Centers is developer of the project. Based outside Chicago, the privately held real estate operating company was formed in 1995. It owns or manages 3.2 million square feet of space. This project is part of another 1.7 million square feet under development.
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