The Santa Clarita City Council on Tuesday approved a developer’s request to build about 160 fewer units, favoring townhomes over apartments, in a development planned for southeast of Jakes Way and Lost Canyon Road in Canyon Country.
Council members approved a developer’s request for the MetroWalk Specific Plan, which is south of the burgeoning transit-oriented Vista Canyon project near Highway 14 and a new Metrolink station.
The developer cited market demands as prompting the pair of requests: one area would change from having 179 market-rate apartment units within two four-story buildings to instead having 93 for-sale townhomes; the other request was to change 119 market-rate senior apartments within a four-story building to 44 townhome units.
A few residents questioned the logic of reducing the number of units built in light of the housing crisis and the already high cost of homes in Santa Clarita.
“Building rental units should be an imperative right now,” said resident Chad Rush, who said that he, like most of his friends who are under 30, “or even older,” live with their parents because affordability is such a problem in the city.
“These aren’t just hourly workers from McDonald’s, these are college-educated health care workers,” he added, disputing the description of the developer’s request to remove market housing as a minor change.
The state’s low housing supply is repeatedly cited as a reason the state’s market is in dire need of more homes. Another commenter also identified as one of the 20-somethings who are “being priced out of their own city” by the city’s moves.
City Manager Ken Striplin said he understood commenters’ frustration but also that the changes were always a possibility when the plan was approved in March 2021. The MetroWalk project approval allowed for the developer to make adjustments administratively if they wanted to, but city staff called the hearing to inform the council and the public, he said.
Mayor Cameron Smyth asked the developer whether the land would stay vacant if the city did not take action to formalize the plan change.
“The short answer is, yes, we do not see any short-term utilization of this portion of the property given the significant headwinds that we’re facing in the kind of broader economy and the macro-economic conditions,” said Jonathan Frankel of the Atlantis Group, representing the project’s applicant.
Addressing the senior-housing portion of the project, he said it was underwritten pre-COVID, and that since then, well, things have changed.
“COVID really fundamentally altered the market for senior market-rate apartments in a way that really no one could have anticipated,” he told the council, adding that sort of “dense, style of living” largely has fallen out of favor within that community.
The developer request runs contrary to a concern that’s been mentioned publicly by multiple Santa Clarita City Council members, including Smyth, who have noted the city seeing an influx of requests for an increasing number of large-scale housing developments that are largely able to circumvent local control by addressing the state’s need for more housing units.
Efforts by the Legislature in recent years, citing local governments as one of the obstacles to more multiunit housing being built, have made it easier for developers to add units.
The average national home price has risen by approximately $100,000 since March 2020, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data. The Southern California market saw similarly dramatic increases in value, which many say is due to a lack of supply that hasn’t met growing demand for a number of years.
In the SCV, the median listing price for homes and condominiums was $840,000 for November 2023, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. That figure is up $60,000 from the same time last year and up 40% from March 2020, when it was $600,000.
For all of L.A. County, the median listing price was $995,000 in November 2023, according to Realtor.com, which also indicated the median price of homes sold for the same time period was $872,000.