Building boom is according to plan

Newhall Ranch graders captured in aerial shot in March 2018. photo by Austin Dave, The Signal.
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More dust, more noise, more cars, all go into the mix when it comes to sizing up the cumulative impact of vigorous development underway in Santa Clarita Valley.

So far, the ones responsible for the SCV’s grand plans that stretch to 2050 — “One Valley, One Vision,” or OVOV — says things are going according to, well, plans.

With the construction of 21,000 homes for Newhall Ranch, a plan for 19,000 more homes for the Centennial Project — plus more than a dozen housing projects each calling for an average of 400 to 500 homes, there’s an apparent building boom underway in the SCV.

Is it too much, as some residents have suggested at recent public hearings held for unfolding housing projects?

Planners say the short answer is: “No.”

“All of the approved and pending development projects in the unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley were evaluated as part of the ‘One Valley, One Vision’ planning process,” Mitch Glaser, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, told The Signal this week.

“Specifically, the county’s (environmental impact report) for the Santa Clarita Valley Area Plan Update — a component of ‘One Valley, One Vision’ — considered the cumulative impact of all of these development projects,” he said, “as well as a full build-out of the remaining vacant unincorporated areas.”

According to plan

Six years ago, Santa Clarita City Council unanimously approved “OVOV,” anticipating a jump in population from 167,185 in 2005 to 239,923 by 2035, according to the number crunching done by the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG. The ultimate “build-out” goal for the SCV caps at 483,000.

The population for the city of Santa Clarita is now about 225,000, according to City spokeswoman Carrie Lujan. County officials put the city population at 219,611.

The number of people already living in the Santa Clarita Valley, which includes the city and its unincorporated area, is estimated to be 293,042.

When the SCAG tried to gauge the rate of SCV’s growth back in 2011, the group looked at the years 1990 to 2000, when the city of Santa Clarita suddenly became the fourth largest community in the county. (The city is now the third largest city in L.A. County, surpassed in population size only by Long Beach and the city of Los Angeles.)

Planners found during that period, 60,000 people had settled into the SCV in about 10 years  — a jump of about 39 percent — reaching a population of 212,611 by 2000.

A tally of all the building projects underway in the SCV — from 1,000 homes being built as part of Vista Canyon in the east end, to 820 homes planned for the west side of Tesoro — shows we still haven’t reached the “build-out” civic leaders agreed to back in June 2011..

Housing projects

Many housing projects that stopped abruptly in 2008 with the recession, are being dusted off and given one-year time extensions by regional planners, adding to the projects queuing up for construction.

“Although several large development projects are being considered at this time, they may not be constructed at the same time if they are all approved,” Glaser told The Signal.

“The timing for each development project depends on the housing market and economic factors. As you know, several development projects have been approved over the years but put on hold due to changes in the housing market and the economy as a whole,” he said.

To see many of the projects gear up at once, however, has not gone unnoticed.

“People are concerned about all this growth going on,” Councilwoman Marsha McLean told The Signal Friday.

“We are not at build-out,” she said, referring to projected growth spelled out in OVOV.

“What we want to do is make sure that they (developers) are building the roads that are needed,” she said. “And, that it’s not our residents who are charged for these roads. … There has to be adequate infrastructure.”

When city of Santa Clarita council members approved OVOV in June 2011, McLean was the council member who pointed out: “Nothing here is set in stone.”

“When I said that, it was merely to point out that the general plan could be amended,” she said Friday, noting the growing number of residents and growing number of homes warrant no need for amendments.

Concerns about  the cumulative effect of so many projects was raised recently at a public meeting seeking input about 820 homes planned to Tesoro.

One resident asked about the cumulative effects of so many housing projects on the SCV environment?

Answer: The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning.

Environmental analysis

State officials look to regional planners to tell them how the SCV environment was being impacted by the sum of homes being built.

“The California Environmental Quality Act requires us to evaluate the cumulative impacts of each development project,” Regional Planning spokesman Mitch Glaser, told The Signal this week.

There are 20 specific impacts analyzed by regional planners in a cumulative sense, including: aesthetics, agriculture/forest, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, energy, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrology and water quality.

And, as was heard loud and clear by Tesoro residents responding to the prospect of 820 additional homes built in their community — concerns over increased traffic.

“The county and city of Santa Clarita developed and utilized a joint traffic model that informed the cumulative impact analysis for traffic, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions,” Glaser said.

“Each development project has mitigation measures for air quality and dust, similar to those for Tesoro cited above,” he said. “The developers are responsible for implementing these mitigation measures, under the direction and oversight of the county. If these mitigation measures are properly implemented and enforced, cumulative air quality and dust impacts will be addressed.”

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