The agenda for Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting calls for the commission to make a recommendation that the City Council approve Shadowbox Studios’ proposal for a project that looks to bring “premier, purpose-built soundstage facilities” to North Newhall and Placerita Canyon.
Shadowbox has been working with the city and residents for the past four years to develop a plan that addressed community concerns ranging from aesthetics and traffic to evacuation routes, with city planners wrapping all of the responses into about 1,100 pages.
The report, available on the city’s website, forms the justification for the city’s planning staff to recommend approval of the project, which is on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
Should the Planning Commission follow staff recommendation, that motion would then be forwarded to the City Council for final approval of the project.
The City Council must ultimately sign off on the changes because of the requested zone change, according to Jason Crawford, the city’s director of community development.
“There are multiple parts of the project proposal that require a City Council decision, which is why the project must go to City Council after Planning Commission,” Crawford explained in an email Monday. “These are the general plan amendment, zone change and ridgeline alteration permit.”
The project’s request seeks a zone change on a roughly 51-acre portion of the project site to change the zone from nonurban zoning to mixed-use neighborhood, as well as a change to establish a job creation overlay zone over an approximately 53.4-acre portion of the project (south of the creek). The ridgeline alteration permit is for grading along the base of the slope of a ridgeline identified as a significant ridgeline in the Conservation Element of the city’s General Plan.
The project is located on 93.5 acres just north of Railroad Avenue, 2 miles east of Interstate 5 and 2 miles west of Highway 14, close to the center of the city, and a short walk from Old Town Newhall.
“The project site is situated at the northeastern corner of Railroad Avenue and 13th Street and bounded by 12th Street, Arch Street and 13th Street on the south,” according to planning documents, “a railroad right-of-way and Railroad Avenue on the west; Metropolitan Water District ROW on the east; and slopes maintained by the adjacent residential uses to the north.”
One of the main concerns brought by nearby residents was traffic circulation in an emergency. City planners said a circulation study from the applicant pointed to significantly improved egress rates from Placerita Canyon if the project is approved.
One of the ways this is being accomplished is with a series of traffic changes to the area, some of which are mandated before the project is expected to be completed and others that have a timeline consistent with the project’s, barring unforeseen delays.
The studio is not to be able to open until the completion of the widening of the rail crossing at 13th Street and Railroad Avenue; the widening of 12th, 13th and Arch streets; the installation of a four-leg signalized intersection at the intersections of 12th and Arch streets, and Arch and 13th streets; and the installation of a three-leg half-signalized intersection of Dockweiler Drive and Placerita Canyon Road.
Weber said the construction timeline is expected to take about 30 months for buildout on the 19 soundstages, supporting facilities and traffic enhancements.
A city traffic engineer identified a timeline of about two years for the Dockweiler Drive extension, a joint project between neighboring The Master’s University and the city of Santa Clarita, which is expected to start next year. Again, barring delays, the extension, which is expected to further improve traffic circulation in the area, could be finished by the time of the studio’s completion based on the timelines presented in Council Chambers.
Shadowbox’s website also displays a few similar-in-scope projects.