Newhall Ranch opportunities: Development of long-sought mini-city could mean widespread economic gain for SCV

File photo taken in March 2012 of Highway 126 looking SW showing the Newhall Ranch property. Dan Watson/The Signal

Those who have lived long in the Santa Clarita Valley have seen the pendulum swing repeatedly between pro-growth and slow-growth sentiments in this region. That pendulum sketched another arc this week as the county Board of Supervisors, for the second time, approved two inaugural “villages” in Newhall Ranch, launching the second mega-development of homes planned for construction in this valley.

And while Newhall Ranch has been bitterly battled for some 20 years – unlike its sister mega-development, Valencia, approved in a time when development was more smiled upon – construction at Newhall Ranch in the near future could bring many benefits to the Santa Clarita Valley should the supervisors’ vote signal the end of this dispute.

Like many other young, developing suburban cities near metropolitan areas, Santa Clarita suffers from restrictions that stimulated growth might just turn around, effectively boosting the entire city in terms of economics, housing choices, salaries and job choices.

First, there’s no denying that more housing is needed in the Santa Clarita Valley. New construction has stalled for about 10 years; every month we at The Signal receive a report that property values have gone up again and rents have risen due to the shortage of housing.

The news is good for those who are already homeowners, but we increasingly hear complaints about the lack of housing for young people who want to raise their families in the Santa Clarita Valley, and for residents who want to downsize yet remain in the valley close to family. Constantly rising housing costs can eventually stifle turnover and stagnate an entire community.

Construction on Mission and Landmark villages would add 5,500 homes and apartments, office space and elementary schools to the area of Newhall Ranch north of the Santa Clara River, south of Highway 126 and west of Interstate 5 near Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Newhall Ranch overall would take decades to build, as Valencia did before it, eventually adding 21,000 homes and offering a wider choice of types of homes than is currently available in the SCV.

The Ranch’s new-technology and clean-energy focus also would be a perfect draw for the types of high-tech, clean-tech, biotech and health care jobs that the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation wants to create in the SCV, EDC President Holly Schroeder said during an interview Thursday.

“We are looking at really exciting prospects and jobs in the area,” she said. “This is a perfect match.”

Matthew Shepherd, chief financial officer for the Valencia-based internet marketing firm Scorpion, was among those who spoke to supervisors in favor of Newhall Ranch on Tuesday.

“We see potential for this area to become the Silicon Suburbs,” Shepherd told supervisors.

Newhall Ranch is forecast to create nearly 74,000 permanent jobs within the valley, generating more than $800 million a year in state and local taxes, Schroeder wrote in an EDC blog this week.

The past 10 years of little local growth have dragged down some areas of the Santa Clarita Valley, particularly Castaic, where businesses have shuttered and stood empty, school enrollment has declined, teachers have been laid off and more school enrollment fall-off is forecast. A boost of West Side growth would help turn that around.

First approved by supervisors for construction in 2012, Newhall Ranch was delayed repeatedly by environmental lawsuits arguing its proximity to the Santa Clara River posed various environmental hazards, as well as its likelihood for creating more greenhouse gases. The initially approved environmental plan went to the state Supreme Court before it was modified to California’s satisfaction.

The fact is that growth is engineered into Los Angeles County land use policy; it’s what drove the Newhall Land and Farming Company to draw up the master-planned community of Valencia in the 1950s.

Emile Haddad, president and CEO of FivePoint – Newhall Land’s current owner – said the environmental reviews to which Newhall Land has been subject make the project a better one for residents and the environment.
“This was the last hurdle,” he said. “We are very close to the day when we can put the shovel into the ground.”


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