Santa Clarita to discuss Dockweiler Drive extension

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File Photo

A proposed project to extend Dockweiler Drive to 13th and Arch Street, which Santa Clarita officials say is important for the area’s growth, has sparked discussion between residents and city officials.

If approved, the project named Dockweiler/Lyons would reduce congestion on Newhall Avenue and create a 0.67-mile roadway connecting Dockweiler Drive to Arch Street and the existing 13th Street at-grade rail crossing at Railroad Avenue, city officials said this week.

There is already an approved 0.64-mile extension of Dockweiler Drive as part of a project by The Masters University that the proposed roadway would also connect.

If passed, the proposed improvements would be initially built as a two-lane roadway with the intent to expand to a four-lane as traffic growth creates need, as well as a 12-foot raised landscaped median, a 13-foot sidewalk and 5-foot bike lanes.

Some property owners in Placerita Canyon are unhappy, saying the projected circulation interferes with the city’s Placerita Canyon Special Standards District standards found in city code. The guidelines in the code are to “protect, maintain, preserve and enhance the secluded, rural equestrian character of the community,” according to city documents.

The proposed 0.67-mile road would run parallel to the existing Railroad Avenue in the Placerita Canyon area.

“The closest affected residence is 200 to 300 feet and is on the other side of the ridge line, so (residents) will never see the road,” City Manager Ken Striplin said.

Valerie Thomas, president of the Placerita Canyon Property Owners Association, said she was skeptical of whether 13th Street could handle the heavy traffic from Railroad Avenue that would enter the extension through the at-grade rail crossing.

“(Cars are) coming from a T-intersection at Sierra Highway going through our Special Standards District,” she said.

Currently, the extension would go through the privately owned property of Mayor Laurene Weste.

Weste said the city owned an easement for a road alignment going through her property that would not affect her property. They would not be buying anything on her land, she said. City officials also noted the anticipated project would include a land swap, and no money was expected to change hands. Weste has repeatedly excused herself from the discussion of the project from the dais.

“I don’t receive anything for that because they are owners of their alignment and they’re not changing any zoning,” she said. “There’s really no change for me, other than instead of the road going one direction, it’ll go the other direction. The only change is that the community ends up with a safer access in and out.”

When asked if any of the properties — including the mayor’s — affected by the extension would go up in value as a result of the extension, Striplin said, “It depends on how you look at it.”

Placerita Canyon resident Diane Kauzlarich is opposed to the extension location that would build a roundabout into the Placerita Canyon area, citing the Environmental Impact Report’s “No Project Alternative,” or not extending the road, as the least impactful option.

“We oppose (the city’s recommendation) because even their EIR says the project has too much impact,” Kauzlarich said. “This isn’t San Francisco. Can you picture a roundabout leading into a neighborhood? It’s not the middle of the city. This has always been a rural community.”

This option would fail to achieve any of the stated “Project Objectives,” the report stated.

In a meeting with The Signal on Wednesday, the city cited traffic studies that justified the need for a project to keep up with anticipated growth. For example, a developer is currently conducting an environmental impact report for 300 single-family homes that would be built in a lot that’s currently vacant across from Railroad Avenue, not far from the current home of SCVTV.

Striplin said that circulation needs and traffic reports would be the ultimate reason why the project was necessary.

However, Kauzlarich also said she was skeptical of the traffic efficiency of the extension, as it would run parallel to the existing Railroad Avenue, which becomes Newhall Avenue, but still result in a narrow passage to Sierra Highway, she said.

“It’s not going to flow the traffic,” she said.

The original project proposal, extending the new road from Lyons Avenue to Dockweiler Drive, now would entail too many costly adjustments, such as building a bridge over the existing rail to connect the extension. The expenses would be far too great, said Striplin, making the option a nonstarter.

Other sites looked at for the project include the Lyons Avenue intersection with Railroad Avenue and where Railroad Avenue intersects with Market Street.

The grade, or steepness, of the intersection at Market Street would not abide by the city’s codes for safety. The route would also impact a number of significant structures, such as the Veterans Historical plaza.

Funding for a majority of the $20 million project would come out of an $11 million grant the city obtained through L.A. Metro. City officials also noted if the project was not approved, the city will lose the opportunity to use those funds for the project.

The project’s EIR is set for final approval by the City Council at its April 10 meeting.

Should the EIR be approved by City Council, the next step in the process would be to submit an application to the California Public Utilities Commission to update the 13th Street rail crossing.

If approved, the design of the roads would begin and be set for completion in the next couple of years, Striplin said.

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