By Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste
As the first permanent town in the Santa Clarita Valley, Newhall is the city of Santa Clarita’s oldest and most historic neighborhood. Since the time of Henry Mayo Newhall, who purchased Rancho San Francisco in the 1800s and sold a portion to the Southern Pacific Railroad company — which built the town and named it after him — the area has served as the economic and cultural center of this region.
Newhall has marked its place in American history due to the discovery of gold in nearby Placerita Canyon and the operation of the first successful oil well in the West at Pico No. 4. It is also, famously, the former home of western film star William S. Hart and has played a starring role in some of Hollywood’s most enduring and beloved films.
Over the years, the City Council and community organizations have worked to preserve the rich history of Newhall — and our entire city — in a number of ways. This includes relocating historical buildings to Heritage Junction, protecting natural habitats in our surrounding open spaces and stabilizing original structures at the Pioneer Oil Refinery, to name just a few. In December 2005, the council adopted the Old Town Newhall Specific Plan, which provided a roadmap, informed by community input, for the revitalization of Old Town Newhall and has guided the development of the area into the city’s premier arts and entertainment district.
The plan lays out the development standards, design guidelines and implementation measures for development in Old Town Newhall. As a result of having this plan in place, the area has been transformed into a vibrant destination that now includes Newhall Crossings, a Laemmle theatre, boutique shopping, new restaurants and a variety of wine and beer tasting rooms.
This year, city staff has been hard at work drafting an update to the Old Town Newhall Specific Plan, which aims to fine-tune the current plan for continued success over the next 15 to 20 years. In June, residents went on a walking tour of Old Town Newhall, taking notes on the architecture, businesses and other elements and giving feedback to the project team about their vision for the area in the future. Then, in early October, nearly 200 community members gathered at the farmers’ market to review exhibits of preliminary ideas that may be part of the plan update.
Throughout the morning, residents and the project team discussed concepts related to promoting the arts and entertainment district in Santa Clarita and beyond, providing more housing opportunities, finding new strategies for parking, streamlining the development process and more. This continued collaboration with the community has allowed the project team to incorporate the ideas – and address the concerns – of the residents and business owners most impacted by the plan.
Updated development standards will not only give property owners and developers a clearer picture of the city’s objectives for Old Town Newhall, but it will also ensure that the right steps are being taken to preserve our most historic neighborhood and enhance the quality of life of residents throughout Santa Clarita. The plan update is still in progress and there is still time to contribute your feedback.
The team working on the Old Town Newhall Specific Plan Update will present the update for approval at a Planning Commission meeting, followed by a hearing before the City Council at a meeting in early 2022. If you were unable to attend either the walking tour or the follow-up workshop, please take time to learn more about the project by visiting OldTownNewhall.com/PlanUpdate. You can then submit your ideas and feedback by emailing [email protected].
For a most enjoyable experience for your family, spend special time in Old Town Newhall this holiday season. Now through the new year you will not only be able to see how much the area has evolved over the years, but also relive the holidays of the past with festive decorations and dazzling lights on display each night.
Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected].