City Council to meet over potential Porta Bella litigation

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Santa Clarita City Council members are expected to hold both a closed meeting and a special session Tuesday to discuss anticipated litigation over Porta Bella — a plan adopted about a quarter-century ago for residential and commercial development on the Whittaker-Bermite property. 

The scheduled meeting comes after City Manager Ken Striplin spoke via phone Aug. 17 with Bart Shea and David Lunn of Remediation Financial Inc., insurers of Whittaker Corp., which was responsible for the Whittaker-Bermite cleanup. 

Shea and Lunn allege the city “had breached its obligations under the 1996 development agreement, in terms of force site cleanup issues and alleged misrepresentations of the status of entitlements by city staff to third parties interfering with potential site financing. They also indicated they were contemplating sending a notice of default to the city as a precursor to litigation,” according to the memo. 

Porta Bella was a mixed-use plan that proposed nearly 3,000 residential units and 96 acres of commercial and business use on the property, located in the center of the city. The City Council approved in 1995 its specific plan and development agreement, which created vested land use entitlements that would greenlight construction. 

“While the development agreement will expire on Jan. 1, 2021, the specific plan for the property will remain in place indefinitely until it is amended or replaced by another entitlement granted by the City Council in the future, which city staff believes is likely to be proposed prior to development of the site,” according to the city’s Whittaker-Bermite website. 

When the property was acquired, the entitlement and development had been placed on hold until the cleanup of the site was complete, which officials with cleanup firm Amec Foster Wheeler said in early March had been finished after 19 years of removing remnants of explosives that released harmful volatile organic compounds trapped in the soil. 

The special meeting is set to commence at 5 p.m. with public participation, followed by the closed session meeting. Should any actions be taken in the closed session, City Attorney Joseph Montes would make a public announcement thereafter. 

The council’s regular meeting is scheduled to follow at 6 p.m. 

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