Sand Canyon Resort proposal reaches hurdle with numerous concerns from Planning Commission

Site plan of the Sand Canyon resort project as proposed on the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road. Courtesy of the city of Santa Clarita

A developer is looking to transform the Sand Canyon Country Club into a more-than 70-acre resort and spa by summer 2022, but residents expressed numerous concerns with the project over its rezoning, traffic and fire safety plans during a city Planning Commission meeting Tuesday. 

Planning commissioners reviewed the project’s draft environmental impact report and held a public hearing, ultimately granting an additional 60 days for the comment period on the report — for a total of 120 — after hearing from residents who opposed the proposal. 

The project, proposed on the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road, calls for transforming developer Steve Kim’s country club into a resort with amenities that include: four three-story hotels with a combined 322 rooms; 14 two-story villas; multiple dining options and outdoor recreation for trails, swimming, tennis and pickleball and an existing 27-hole golf course. The plans also call for the removal of 21 non-heritage oak trees. A zone change from “open space” to “community commercial” for two of the four site lots is also proposed. 

For Kim and those in support of the project, the resort could bring to the area much-needed jobs, additional recreation and generate an economic impact of $57 million per year to the city, according to the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., which Kim cited before commissioners. 

Meanwhile, several residents of the Sand Canyon area raised numerous concerns during the virtual public hearing, among them that the city’s initial review period of 60 days for the EIR was insufficient amid challenges such as recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs. 

“We followed up again with staff as the vast majority of the community was reaching out to me, arguing that reading a voluminous EIR during the holidays, during a global pandemic, while encountering several Southern California Edison power outages was simply not enough time, and not fair to us,” said Alex Guerrero, Sand Canyon resident and chairman of the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force, who said he has collected a petition against the project with 2,000 signatures. 

Those opposed have argued the project is not practical, fails to provide a realistic emergency evacuation plan should a wildfire erupt and that rezoning would lead to losing open space. They also said if the resort was unsuccessful, it could lead to the construction of apartments or other large commercial buildings in what has remained a residential area under the city’s special standards district, meaning the area is to “maintain, preserve and enhance the rural and equestrian character of Sand Canyon.” 

Kim responded to most of their concerns, but commissioners weren’t all in agreement. For example, on the matter of fire evacuations, the developer said that if a fire breaks out, guests would be asked to check out long before an evacuation order is issued. 

“I’m going to have a really hard time coming to accept this project, unless there is a new road of substantial addition to this, along with a very well-planned-out execution of how that road is going to work and intertwine with the rest of the community there,” said Commissioner Tim Burkhart. 

Commissioners requested more information on whether the project is financially viable, considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the market demand. 

Kim pleaded with commissioners to help speed up the process, saying he has sufficient money to self-fund the project and he’s passionate about bringing a resort that can help bring about 500 jobs to the area. 

“People are dying for the jobs right now,” Kim said. “Let me start the project as soon as possible and give people hope. I think the people opposing are so selfish. I’m sorry to say that, really.” 

The project is expected to return before commissioners on March 2, following the extended EIR comment period. 

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