At least 975 acres of Whittaker-Bermite land cleared for ‘unrestricted use’

Empty dump trucks pull into a soil treatment area to pick up clean dirt as viewed on tour of the clean-up efforts of the Whittaker/Bermite site in Valencia in October. Dan Watson/The Signal

When the dust at the Whittaker-Bermite site settles and 18 years of cleanup comes to a close by year’s end, about 1,000 acres will be available to developers for “unrestricted use.”

On Jan. 1, 2019, the Whittaker-Bermite land in the heart of the Santa Clarita Valley, off limits from the public while work was being done, will have been cleaned to the satisfaction of state officials and ready for development.

“The Department of Toxic Substances Control estimates that approximately 975 acres will be suitable for unrestricted use and it is up to the local planning department to determine how much of that it is used for residential,” DTSC spokesman Russ Edmonson said.

“It is up to the local planning department to determine how much of it will be used for residential,” he said.

That means all but 21 acres of the Whittaker-Bermite property are expected be available for development.

Jose Diaz, senior project manager for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, this month called the last days of decontamination: “a fairly significant milestone.”

That’s not to say, however, that homes will be built on each of the 975 acres tagged for
“unrestricted use,” he said.

Once contamination is no longer a factor barring development, developers are expected to confront a number of other equally pressing environmental issues they must take into account, Diaz said.

Environmental concerns such as maintaining ridgelines and building near existing fault lines are expected to leave developers with — realistically — the chance to build on about half the property, about 500 acres, Diaz said.

Developing 975 acres of land set aside for “unrestricted use” can include any number of projects from residential to industrial, commercial to retail, open space and recreational uses.

In light of several housing developments underway in the SCV — not the least of which includes 21,000 homes as part of Newhall Ranch — one city leader sees a chance to complement those residences with the prospect of jobs.

Tom Cole, director of community development for Santa Clarita, described the future of the Whittaker-Bermite site in three words: “Significant job generator.”

“Whoever the successor is to Whittaker-Bermite, that group will likely propose a mixed-use development,” he said, citing an opportunity to complement existing housing with jobs.

“This will be a jobs-to-housing balance,” Cole said. “The (city’s) goal has always been to keep jobs here. None of us like to commute.”

James Chow, senior planner for the city of Santa Clarita, said Thursday any project proposed for the Whittaker-Bermite site would have to address the myriad of environmental concerns required under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Under CEQA, there are a number of categories to ensure conformity with the law,” he said, citing issues including geology, biology, aesthetics and hydrology.

“The valley has changed a lot in 20 years,” Chow said.

jholt@signalscv.com

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This post was last modified on July 26, 2018, 5:38 pm

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