Country club owner sues city for $250M

A rendering of the original proposed design for the Sand Canyon Country Club Resort and Spa. Courtesy of the Sand Canyon Country Club.

The owner of the Sand Canyon Country Club has filed a lawsuit seeking no less than $250 million in damages from the city of Santa Clarita for alleged ethnic discrimination and lack of due process, among other complaints.  

Steve Kim, the owner of the Sand Canyon Country Club since 2016, said that the city prevented him from moving forward with plans he had for a large resort, which would include a three-story, 250-room hotel, an inn, villas, conference rooms, restaurants and other amenities across approximately 50 acres of land north of Robinson Ranch Road and east of Sand Canyon Road. 

On Tuesday, Kim told The Signal he had invested $17 million into purchasing and renovating the golf course since 2016, and $4 million on planning out and conceptualizing the resort and spa that was ultimately denied.  

Carrie Lujan, spokeswoman for the city of Santa Clarita, declined to comment on this story, citing that city staff and personnel cannot comment on pending litigation.  

Filed on Oct. 22, the lawsuit alleges that Kim purchased the 300 acres of property while it was in economic distress following the Sand Fire, and he purchased it with the “reasonable expectation and assurance” that he would be able to make the property economically viable with a “steady stream” of visitors. 

Kim’s proposal, according to the lawsuit, was to use a section of the land that was no longer being used as a golf course for the resort — the golf course had been reduced from 36 holes to 27 holes. 

In July of this year, City Council members upheld a Santa Clarita Planning Commission rejection, citing their own concerns about traffic, fire evacuation routes, past promises of open space preservation and the project’s compatibility in the equestrian neighborhood of Sand Canyon.  

In a letter in August to council members, Kim’s attorney Garrett Hanken wrote that his client, a Korean-American immigrant, had statements from members of the public directed at him during the debate over the project that suggested “xenophobia and racial prejudice are motivating the hyper-aggressive and factually inaccurate opposition to the project.” 

Kim has since said he would replace all open space used for the resort on a 2-1 ratio. The City Council responded by saying that it would be honoring a promise made by the 1996 City Council to maintain 300 acres of open space in perpetuity as part of its approval of the existing golf course.  

“They denied it for political reasons, and so it seems very inappropriate and they should have told me something was wrong … five years ago, right?” Kim told The Signal on Tuesday. “It’s just an unbelievable experience … I never thought it could turn out this way. What else could I do?” 

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