City Council approves new zoning rules, business community suggest higher building heights

Construction continues near the 400 building of classrooms at Castaic High School on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The Santa Clarita Valley business community supported new city rules aimed at enhancing the area’s “business-friendly” reputation, before City Council voted Tuesday to approve the regulations. 

Council members voted 4-1 in introducing and passing to a second reading an ordinance to implement the Jobs Creation Overlay Zone, or JCOZ, by offering streamlined permitting and design incentives for qualifying projects within eight targeted business park locations of the city. 

The purpose of the JCOZ “is to position the city to attract corporate headquarters in the aerospace, biomedical, entertainment and technology industries, promote infill development and redevelopment, improve the city’s job and housing balance and encourage high-quality job growth and reduce the number of residents commuting out of the city,” said David Peterson, associate planner with the city’s planning division. 

The JCOZ only applies to office and industrial buildings by allowing them to maximize additional square footage, height and job creation (two jobs per every new housing unit constructed), according to Peterson. The areas where the new rules would apply include the Valencia Town Center, Valencia Industrial Center, Centre Pointe, Needham Ranch, Saugus Speedway and Tourney Road. 

More specifically, the new regulations allow developers to construct office buildings up to five stories without a conditional use permit in specific zones, and industrial buildings to go up to 55 feet tall without a CUP. In many zones throughout the city, a CUP is required for any proposed structure that exceeds 35 feet in height. 

“Right now, (developers) have to go through the CUP process and that takes a long time,” said Jason Crawford, manager of economic development with the city. “It’s costly and it’s not guaranteed. (The JCOZ) provides confidence, certainty and cuts red tape.”

Local business experts focused on bringing talent to Santa Clarita have highlighted a trend for increased height in the market and while they encouraged the City Council to approve new zoning rules, many said regulations should allow for even higher heights. 

“In fact, the trend continues such that I believe the city should consider increasing the allowable number of stories for office buildings to six (rather than five) and establish an equivalent height for industrial buildings,” Holly Schroeder, CEO and president of the SCV Economic Development Corp., said in a letter to the City Council and Planning Commission. 

“While the proposal before you is a good one, I would strongly urge the commission to increase the proposed height from five stories to six stories. This will not increase impacts to the community and will provide an even greater incentive,” read a letter by attorney Hunt Braly of Poole & Shaffery. 

Upon hearing multiple suggestions for six stories, council members suggested the matter should be looked at in the future. Councilman Bill Miranda made a second motion to amend the JCOZ to six stories as he believed there was enough information provided by experts to increase the height. 

There was no second vote, however. Miranda then voted against the original motion, resulting in the 4-1 vote. 

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