Environmental protection was at the focus of Tuesday’s Santa Clarita City Council discussion over the Newhall Gateway conceptual plan, a proposed commercial space near Newhall Avenue and Sierra Highway.
After hearing from the public and reaching an agreement, council members directed city staff to communicate with the area’s property owners to listen to what steps they would like to take next regarding land use, as well as hear out ideas from new developers.
But there were some caveats.
“Any project being proposed for that area, I have no problem with as long as it’s not a gas station and as long as there’s a way to keep Newhall Creek in its natural state,” said Mayor Marsha McLean, echoing concerns the rest of the council shared, “and that riparian area is protected through some means.”
The project first came to light in 2010 with a separate proposal known as Sierra Crossings, which was a 99,000-square-foot commercial center for the area of Newhall Avenue. The applicant withdrew the plan after facing issues with its design and environmental impacts, which then led to a new conceptual design and economic analysis by new developers, at the direction of the City Council, for the entire southeast quadrant at the intersection of Sierra Highway and Newhall Avenue. This area included the proposed Sierra Crossings site and other parcels.
In 2011, the city lost funding and redevelopment options for the site after the dissolution and elimination of the state of California’s redevelopment program, which left everything at a standstill.
The new design, named the Newhall Gateway Site Plan 1, proposed 269,000 square feet of commercial space with 10 buildings, a five-level parking structure, a hotel, restaurant pads and office space.
“Unlike the Sierra Crossing project, the entire Newhall Creek has been preserved (in the Newhall Gateway plan),” said Ben Jarvis, associate planner for the city.
This preservation feature, alone, is something council members and public speakers said they would like to see in future proposals.
“Newhall Creek is a really important aspect of the community of Newhall,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. “It’s discouraging to think that in 2019 that we would consider undergrounding a stream to provide more profit to someone. We can’t do that. We need to leave it in its natural state.”
Councilman Bob Kellar spoke on the prominence of the area as a major entry point into the city. He said, “This really should be something other than just an old strip mall. It should be something that we can be proud of.”
McLean said after directing city staff, council members will wait to see what comes out of communication between the city and landowners before moving forward with what could be built.