Santa Clarita’s Planning Commission, residents tour sites for proposed developments
Members of the city Planning Commission and more than 15 residents toured the proposed sites for the Shadowbox Studios development in Newhall and the Wiley Canyon Project Wednesday, which offered an early opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns regarding those plans.
City planners Erika Iverson, who led the discussion on Shadowbox Studios, and Patrick Leclair, who led the overview of the Wiley Canyon Project, met with planning commissioners and residents interested in the projects at City Hall at 4 p.m., then traveled via bus to the respective sites.
“[The] site visit for the Shadowbox Studios project was on our agenda forecast for this year before our Planning Commission,” Iverson said.
“These larger development projects — where we have an environmental impact report that’s been prepared — it has been our practice to give the Planning Commission an opportunity to get on site and gain context for a proposed project before it comes to them at a public hearing setting,” she continued.
The city of Santa Clarita notified community members in advance of the tours, and some residents showed up to learn some details about the proposed projects. City planners also took note of their questions and concerns.
“The study session is intended to be informational for the Planning Commission to get context of the site,” Iverson said. “We certainly take in those public comments as we’re preparing our draft EIR [environmental impact report], where we do a lot of the analysis.”
“At this point, we’re not able to answer all the questions on the project, but certainly, getting feedback does help us in the future,” she added.
The proposed Shadowbox Studios project is a “full-service film and television studio campus” with nearly a half-million square feet of sound stages; approximately 561,000 square feet of workshops; around 220,000 square feet of support space in a total building space of about 1.3 million square feet.
The central portion of the project site was identified as south of Placerita Creek, and the main entrance is slated to be near the intersection of Arch and 13th streets in Newhall.
In addition, the plans include several off-site improvements for the area, such as a pedestrian and bike bridge from the Jan Heidt Newhall Metrolink Station on Railroad Avenue to the future extension of Dockweiler Drive and more.
Sandra Cattell, a resident of the canyon near the Shadowbox Studios project site and representative for the Sierra Club, said she attended the tour to learn more information. She felt city planners didn’t “really answer any questions.”
She also mentioned the high winds prevented her from hearing everything discussed.
“The one thing I did learn was where the street was going to be and how they were going to alter 13th and Arch Streets,” Cattell said. “That was important for me to know.”
Cattell said the project was too big.
“This is a rural equestrian community,” she said. “At no point do I see any horses or anything that prompts the rural equestrian lifestyle in this project.”
Other attendees expressed concerns including the traffic impact the project would have in the surrounding area, the number of parking spaces and additional entry points.
Planning Commissioner Dennis Ostrom said the Shadowbox Studios project would be a good job source.
“We’re really pressured to absorb more people, and so the question is what do you do,” Ostrom said. “One thing that the city is not trying to become is a bedroom community — or communities that just serve houses.”
“Santa Clarita wants to kind of catch up, and have a lot of good jobs,” he added.
At the Wiley Canyon Project site, Leclair went over the 32-acre project, which is just east of Interstate 5 and west of Wiley Canyon Road, between Hawkbryn Avenue and Calgrove Boulevard. The site is familiar to long-time local residents as the former site of the Smiser mule ranch.
The mixed-use plan includes housing for seniors, multi-family homes and commercial space.
The senior living facility is expected to feature 130 independent-living units, 61 assisted-living units and 26 memory care beds in a four-story, 227,108-square-foot building. In addition, about 379 apartment units for multifamily residences are planned for the stie.
The commercial space is expected to be about 9,000 square feet, according to the submitted proposal.
Lastly, the project will also include upgrades to the surrounding area such as a new roundabout at the project entrance on Wiley Canyon Road, the intersections at Wiley Canyon Road/Canerwell Street and Wiley Canyon Road/Calgrove Boulevard would be reconstructed to roundabout configurations, and more.
There was a mixed reaction from community members who attended the Wiley Canyon Project tour.
Some were glad to hear the empty lot would be turned into housing with soundproof walls that would block some noise from Interstate 5. They also expressed their support regarding the “much-needed” improvements to the roads — as drivers race by at alarming speeds.
However, others argued the development would cause parking issues, the city would need to address a homelessness situation on the southern portion of the site, and some wanted to see a health study on the effects of living near an interstate.
They also raised a point of concern with the already hectic traffic situation during pick-up and drop-off times at Wiley Canyon Elementary School.
“I wanted to make sure that the process was open and transparent as a resident who’s going to be affected,” said Brian Kirkness, who attended the tour and lives in the nearby Oak Ridge Estates off Wiley Canyon Road and Calgrove Boulevard.
“I have children that are going to the local school, and I think the traffic impact is going to be heavy on that,” he added. “It’s already dangerous.”
Ostrom noted the Wiley Canyon Project comes with a long history. The site was once owned by the late trucking company owner Sam Smiser, who owned a pack of mules known for pulling floats in the Rose Parade, according to SCVHistory.com.
“I remember the days when there were actually mules there,” Ostrom said. “I’ve always wanted to stop and take a look, and that corralling is old-fashioned era — old pipe, about quarter-inch thick. It’s just historical.”
The project would increase available housing in Santa Clarita, he added.
According to Iverson, the public hearings for these projects will be scheduled later in the spring after the draft environmental impact reports are complete and published for public review.