Planning Commission OKs Costco, cinema project

Santa Clarita Valley residents gather to discuss the proposed Patios Connection project at Westfield Valencia Town Center during a city Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

The city’s Planning Commission approved plans Tuesday for the proposed Patios Connection project at Westfield Valencia Town Center, which includes Santa Clarita’s second Costco and several other new businesses. 

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the $100-million project and approximately 101,000-square-foot addition to the mall.

The Patios Connection project consists of demolishing the former Sears building, and constructing a Costco, with parking on the roof, as well as a gas station, health and fitness center, luxury cinema, expansion of the existing Canyon music venue and additional retail and restaurant space.

“The parking on top of Costco is specifically designed to supply new parking to the patios,” Chris Kitchen, vice president of development for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said. “It represents approximately 64% increase in supply directly for the patios … We oriented Costco to face the lower-level parking so that the demand for parking is really based on the area where we don’t have demand for that (currently).”

Among concerns discussed was the possibility of increased traffic congestion to an already busy area, along with further parking issues the increase would cause.

“It seems like every time I come in there (parking is) full, and this just may be because we’re going to the hot spots,” said Commissioner Dennis Ostrom, adding that he believes traffic is most dangerous when people are searching for parking spots. 

“The maximum parking spaces we ever found was an 80% occupancy on the Saturday before Christmas,” responded Pat Gibson, president of Gibson Transportation Consulting. “There are over 700 empty parking spaces during the busiest hour of the year. Were they all right next to the door? No.”

Together with mall officials, city staff has looked into six possible mitigation measures in regards to traffic, as the proposal would generate 3,700 more daily trips and significantly impact traffic at six intersections, according to a city traffic analysis. 

Among those measures would be reconfiguring those six major intersections, as well as the existing surface parking lot and all access points into the mall to improve circulation into the property.

Still, business owners on Citrus Street voiced concerns regarding exiting their parking lot with the increased traffic from the nearby Costco gas station. 

“Will that flow stop so that we can exit our property?” property owner Margaret Lundgren asked. “I don’t know how this will affect us getting in and out of work, or how it will affect our clients or customers and those of our tenants.” 

The reconfiguration of Citrus would add a designated center lane for turns, which would increase the capacity and reduce queuing currently faced by those property owners, according to Ian Pari, senior traffic engineer with the city’s traffic division. 

“We all have really busy lives and a shopping center that creates the opportunity for a working mother like myself, to have a one-stop-shop is a huge advantage, that the addition brought with the Patio connection project will do just that,” local Realtor Liz Tolentino said.

Amy Daniels, executive director of the WiSH Education Foundation, agreed, adding, “It’ll save the soul time, energy and money. We can shop, eat, work out, get entertainment, low-cost gas and it will lessen the cross-valley traffic, which is amazing.”

Commissioners also directed the applicant to look into ways and strategies to help enhance pedestrian safety, parking mitigation for construction during special events and ensuring no reductions in the number of disabled parking spaces.

The project does not need approval by the City Council because of its conditional use permit status, which only requires a Planning Commission vote, so if the following 15-day appeal period passes without petition, the applicant will be free to submit structural drawings for approval prior to construction.

Mall officials said they’re “ready to go” for construction this year and estimate completion by late 2022.

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