There may be a massive industrywide work stoppage in Hollywood, but a studio developer is hoping the Santa Clarita City Council will greenlight its production plans Tuesday for North Newhall and Placerita Canyon.
Shadowbox Studios has proposed a roughly 93-acre lot for a 1.3 million-square-foot development with 19 soundstages 55 feet tall and the support structures that come with sustaining such a campus, including a catering facility, fencing and a parking structure that will help provide the project’s more than 2,000 parking spots.
The decision is in front of the City Council because the project would transform an undeveloped lot in an equestrian community zoned as a rural special standards district into one that’s part of the city’s Job Creation Overlay Zone, which requires a council approval.
The project has already been through four rounds of public hearings in front of the Planning Commission, with city planners reviewing and ultimately supporting the contentions of the consultants hired by Shadowbox, who looked at environmental impacts, traffic and emergency concerns that community stakeholders brought forth during the environmental review process.
After four separate hearings, planners moved to recommend approval of the project to the City Council on July 19, shortly before both bodies took a summer recess.
“We are certainly grateful for the recommendation from staff that you forward our project on to council with your recommendation of approval,” said Jeff Weber, lead for the project for Shadowbox, during the hearing for the final draft EIR in July. “We’re also grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received from neighbors, residents of Placerita Canyon, business owners and local community leaders.”
Its proponents, which have included the numerous local industry interests that would benefit — a group that counts a number of Placerita Canyon residents — as well as regional economic organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the SCV Economic Development Corp., have cited the tremendous benefit the project could bring to the local economy.
Local environmentalists and some residents have questioned whether the cost to be paid for such advancement is giving up their quiet, rural way of life.
Some advocates, as well as some who have expressed neutrality on the project, have said that if the studio is not approved, the state’s housing crisis could lead to the lot turning into a glut of houses that city officials would have little to no say over.
During the hearing process, a number of Placerita Canyon residents did express concerns about the project’s traffic impacts on the surrounding community, as well how such a development could impact the area’s circulation in an emergency.
In those respects, city planners agreed with the report from the project’s consultants, which found the project was in the city’s allowable threshold due to its queuing of vehicles behind the main entrance to the project off Arch Street.
The project’s traffic impacts were also to be lessened by a combination of factors discussed by Senior Traffic Engineer Ian Pari during the planning process. The extension of Dockweiler Drive is a two-year capital improvement project the city is splitting with The Master’s University, which is forecast to cut the commute for the length of the project on Railroad Avenue in half at rush hour. Shadowbox is also committing to making several traffic improvements on its own before the project can open. Those improvements include 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.
The traffic improvements are projected to significantly reduce the time it would take to evacuate the canyon in an emergency, according to city officials.
Pari said the city’s timeline for Dockweiler runs similar to the studios. Dockweiler is about a two-year project expected to begin next year and Weber estimated the studio would take about 30 months to construct, with its start date pending final council approval.