Board approves Northlake housing project

A map of the planned Northlake development project in Castaic.

LOS ANGELES — A plan for Castaic more than 25 years in the making moved forward Tuesday when county supervisors approved the construction of nearly 2,300 homes as part of the Northlake housing project.
Four of the five Los Angeles County supervisors voted in favor of the Northlake Phase 1 project moving ahead. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, saying more work was needed to address environmental concerns, abstained from voting.

Before lauding the merits of building 2,295 homes in Castaic, county 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose area includes the Santa Clarita Valley, asked county staff about the impact construction would have on wildlife habitats.

The report from staff: “We feel very confident that the surveys done are more than adequate to meet the (California Environmental Quality Act) and go beyond it.”

Tuesday’s hearing on Northlake was called to hear the appeals made by environmentalists opposed to the project.
Three Northlake opponents spoke, sharing an allotted four minutes among them.

“This project epitomizes widespread habitat destruction,” said Ross Middlemiss, spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The project’s environmental impact report fails in many ways,” he said. “The project would destroy three miles of Grasshopper Creek.
“It is very difficult to establish and recreate (wildlife) habitat offsite,” Middlemiss said. “Habitat will be destroyed and animals will be evicted.”

In moving ahead with the project, Barger cited a need to explore the features of a wildlife corridor set up by Southern California Edison.

“I am confident this project will boost the local economy,” she said.

In 1992, when the Northlake project was first approved, many businesses – big and small – set up in Castaic, in anticipation of a growing residential market.

“I have gone to the boarded-up buildings,” Barger said. “Business owners anticipated that these homes would be built and they were not built because of the economic downturn.”

Then the housing crash hit in 2008, and the project didn’t materialize.

“I am excited about this project,” said Flo Lawrence, former president of the Castaic Area Town Council.
“Right now, we have a lot of businesses closed,” he said. “We need housing. Businesses are suffering. All the houses were built at the end of the 1990s.
We were so busy building houses, we set aside no fields, or parks,” he said. “Northlake has agreed to help with these. We need places to order a sandwich, drop off your dry cleaning, put kids in desks at our schools.”

Northlake developer John Arvin told supervisors: “We’ve added 315 affordable housing units. I’m very proud of the Northlake project.”
He called the revamped project: “Greener and more sustainable with an increase in open space.”

Attorney Damon P. Mamalakis, speaking for the project applicants, cited studies and independent biological reports done on the impact to wildlife habitat. “The impacts will be less than significant,” he said.

The Northlake residential units are to be built on 730 acres, with 799.5 acres devoted to parks and open space. It also calls for a fire station and a school on 23 acres.

The property is situated east of Interstate 5, west of Castaic Lake.

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