County regional planning commissioners, after reviewing plans Wednesday to add 820 homes to Tesoro del Valle, asked the developer to make room in the project for affordable housing and an emergency homeless housing facility.
On Wednesday, members of the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission listened to at least 18 people speak either for or against the plan to build on the vacant land next to Tesoro.
Speakers were evenly split between those concerned about increased traffic and diminished traffic safety who opposed the project and those who urged the commission to approve the plans, with many saying the project will boost the Santa Clarita Valley’s economy.
It was the issue of homelessness, however, that convinced commissioners to continue the discussion.
The commissioners voted for a continuance of the public hearing, settling on a date of Nov. 7.
Appreciating the sensitivity of the issue, one of the commissioners who offered suggestions for suitable follow-up date noted: “We may have more than 18 speakers that day.”
Michael Schlesinger, vice president of community development for the Bristol Land Co., presented several aspects of the project — called The Highlands — that have been tweaked in response to prior suggestions made by commissioners and regional planners.
He kicked off the presentation with the developer’s objective spelled out clearly in bold type and in quotes: “To complete the Tesoro del Valle Community with more benefits and fewer environmental impacts than the approved plan.”
Schlesinger shared many of the project’s benefits with commissioners, not shying away from the community’s previously voiced concerns over increased traffic.
He told the commission about the Tesoro del Valle Mobility and Safety Program, promising to enhance traffic safety and promote alternative modes of transportation.
He proposed making changes to Reyes Adobe Way that would create double head-to-head cul-de-sacs, which would allow access by emergency vehicles and pedestrians in lieu of a through street, which would simply join the two roads.
Commissioners, however, remain focused on the issue of homelessness.
After sharing his thoughts on the need for affordable housing and the creation of an emergency homeless housing facility, Commissioner Doug Smith said: “In my opinion, they need to be included in your development.”
He asked Schlesinger directly: “Is it possible to place emergency homeless housing within the project?”
Schlesinger replied: “Right now there is no site appropriate for that. …We don’t think it would be appropriate to be held out to the community.”
Commission Chair David W. Louie said: “We’ve seen many, many situations where homeless emergency housing has been resisted in that particular community because some residents felt it wasn’t appropriate.
“My sense is that (L.A. County) supervisors feel there needs to be recognition of that throughout the county.
“And, that all communities need to take on their fair share of emergency home housing. So, I’m going to ask you to reconsider that — that of the 800-plus acres that you have, that you find a location within your development that could accommodate an emergency homeless facility.”
Bristol Land Co. wants to create 811 lots with 820 dwelling units and associated public facility, recreation/open space on 1,274.6 acres, all as part of the original Tesoro Master Planned Development.
The project is planned to be built northwest of the existing Tesoro community, north of Copper Hill Drive — opposite the Albertsons store. It calls for nine multi-family lots, 12 water-quality basin lots, three water-tank lots, one helipad lot, six senior-recreation area lots, 15 private parks, a senior recreation center, 29 lots reserved for open space and 24 private driveways.
The current plans require moving more than 18 million cubic yards of earth at the hilly site overlooking the San Francisquito Creek.
The terrain is described by planners as having slopes of 20 percent and greater.
Eleven oak trees would be cut down, for which the developer would need permission from Los Angeles County officials.
Near the close of the hearing, when Smith reflected on “a robust conversation about homeless shelters,” the commission heard from an SCV attorney familiar with the city’s answer to homeless shelters.
Hunt Braly identified himself as a consultant for the development applicant, a resident of Santa Clarita and a member of the executive committee overseeing Bridge to Home, the nonprofit organization that manages the homeless shelter in Santa Clarita.
“We’ve been given two parcels of land deeded to us by the city of Santa Clarita recently,” he said. “With the existing shelter and the adjacent parcel, we’ve received about $700,000 in funding for a capital project for Measure H.
“We’re planning to do a year-round homeless services center on that site for services and housing. So, we have a site in Santa Clarita,” Braly said. “It’s a site that works in the central part of the city, close to public transportation. We’ll have case managers on that site.
“So, I just wanted to clarify for the commission, we have a site,” he said. “We are working year-round with the county, with Supervisor (Kathryn) Barger’s office and the city of Santa Clarita, to build that year-round.
“I do not think there’s a need for two sites in the Santa Clarita Valley for those services,” Braly said. “I just wanted to make that clear to the commission.”