Whittaker-Bermite owner files for bankruptcy, working to sell land

Empty dump trucks pull into a soil treatment area to pick up clean dirt as viewed on tour of the clean-up efforts of the Whittaker/Bermite site in Valencia in October. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Santa Clarita LLC, which owns the undeveloped 900-plus-acre Whittaker-Bermite site, recently filed for voluntary bankruptcy, and is working to sell it to a global industrial real estate company for possible commercial and residential development, officials said Wednesday.  

In November, Santa Clarita LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing assets of up to $1 billion and debts ranging from $100 million to $500 million, a move that was designed to sell the property to Prologis Inc. and help Santa Clarita LLC pay its creditors, according to Christopher Bayley, an attorney representing the company.   

“What would end up happening is that … when the (offer) closes, the money would then, from the sale, go to Santa Clarita LLC and it would be able to pay all of its creditors in full and pay everybody off that has allowed claims under the bankruptcy code,” said Bayley.  

The Whittaker-Bermite site is located in the center of the city, surrounded on each direction by Soledad Canyon Road, Golden Valley Road, Railroad Avenue and Circle J Ranch. Starting in the 1930s, the area served as the production site of dynamite, fireworks and oil field explosives. Years of manufacturing left behind chemicals and waste byproducts in the soil and groundwater even after operations fully ceased in 1987. 

In 1995, Santa Clarita City Council members approved a development plan, dubbed the Porta Bella specific plan, that consisted of 1,200 single-family residential units and 1,600 multi-family homes, 96 acres for commercial and business use, as well as 400 acres of open space. The agreement was to also build millions of dollars of public infrastructure and have the site remediated before development, according to the city’s Whittaker-Bermite website. Last year, the cleanup of the site was declared completed after two decades, although complete water cleanup efforts continue. 

Santa Clarita LLC bought the site from Whittaker Corp. in 1999 and, in 2019, Arizona-based Remediation Financial Inc. bought Santa Clarita LLC, according to RFI CEO David Lunn. On Feb. 9, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control released its hold on the property for $1.4 million as soil and groundwater cleanup took place, according to Jose Diaz, senior project manager for the state department. 

Liens are placed against property so that creditors, such as banks and credit unions, can collect what is owed to them. Owners are then given full and clear title to the property once liens are removed. 

Prologis officials did not return requests for comment Wednesday but Lunn said Wednesday the global real estate company is looking to team up with a Santa Clarita Valley home builder to bring the Porta Bella specific plan to fruition.  

The city and Santa Clarita LLC continue discussions over whether the development agreements are still in place.  

“We’re trying to work with the city for them to agree that the development agreements are still in place,” said Lunn, adding that the company is also working with Prologis to access federal grants for infrastructure laid out on the Porta Bella plan.  

Due to a pending claim, the city cannot comment on the matter, said City Communications Manager Carrie Lujan.  

Meanwhile, Santa Clarita LLC filed a complaint Tuesday against Blue Ox Holdings LLC, challenging claims that have been filed by claimants or creditors in the bankruptcy that are “seeking to be paid large sums of money in which the debtor (Santa Clarita LLC) doesn’t agree with,” said Bayley.  

The attorney added there could be more complaints filed.  

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