The proposed 820-home Highlands housing project was narrowly approved by the county Regional Planning Commission Wednesday, but not until two commissioners admonished the developer for not including affordable housing in the project.
The commission voted in favor of the project Wednesday with a vote of 3-2.
The project, which is an addition to the existing Tesoro del Valle community, now moves forward with a voluntary pledge made by the developer to deposit $1.6 million into a fund administered by the county’s Community Development Commission to benefit homeless families and individuals.
Commissioners who voted in favor of the project included Commissioner Laura Shell, who represents the 3rd District, Commissioner Elvin W. Moon, who represents the 4th District, and Commissioner Pat Modugno, who represents the 5th District.
Commissioner Doug Smith, representing the 1st District, and Commission Chair David W. Louie voted against the project.
Smith, describing the county as having a “long history of segregation by income, class and race,” expressed disappointment over the lack of affordable housing included in the Tesoro/Highlands project.
“I think we have a chance now to do it better, to move forward and to grow with equity and inclusion, so with that lands that apply to this particular project and the findings in our code, I will respectfully be voting ‘no.’
“I do appreciate the work that the applicant has done on all the other issues in terms of responding to community concerns and coming back with an improved project,” he said. “But without an affordability component I won’t be able to support it.”
The Regional Planning Commission approved the project as presented by the applicant and recommended by staff. This includes the voluntary contribution of $1.6 million.
Louie said he would prefer to see the contribution doubled to $3.2 million.
“For a seasoned applicant to come here without a consideration for affordable housing and not offering any concession for that, and for our commission not to address that, it is troubling to me,” Louie said.
The commission’s approval may be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. The last day for anyone to file an appeal is Monday, Nov. 19.
“Anyone can appeal the decision,” said Mitch Glaser, spokesman for the planning commission. “But typically it is someone who expressed concerns or opposition during the process.”
The project’s approval Wednesday hinged on the pledge made by the developer to contribute to the homeless.
Specific language spelling out that commitment reads:
“As agreed to by the subdivider, prior to final map approval for the 200th residential unit, the subdivider or successor in interest shall deposit a sum of $1,640,000 into a fund, to be administered by the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles (‘CDC’), for the benefit of a project or projects serving homeless families and individuals.
“The allocation of funds to potential projects would be prioritized in the following order: 1) the City of Santa Clarita; 2) Santa Clarita Valley; or 3) within the 5th Supervisorial District within the County of Los Angeles.
“To account for inflation, beginning on the effective date of the project, the sum shall be adjusted based on the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.”
The developer, 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.
It plans to build 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.