New developer, new plans 

The Sunridge project will be the subject of a study session in front of the Santa Clarita City Council on March 6.
The Sunridge project will be the subject of a study session in front of the Santa Clarita City Council on March 6.
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City to hear new proposal for former Whittaker-Bermite site next week 

The city of Santa Clarita is expecting to hear an early public discussion next week for one of the most talked-about and worked-on plots of land in the region’s history: the Whittaker-Bermite property, which is now being proposed for development as a new project to be called Sunridge. 

The Sunridge project will be the subject of a study session in front of the Santa Clarita City Council on March 6. 

The proposal involves a nearly 1,000-acre site near the city’s geographic center, located south of Soledad Canyon Road, east of Railroad Avenue and west of Golden Valley Road. The former munitions site was cleaned up through a decadeslong remediation effort overseen by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control before it was purchased out of bankruptcy for approximately $286 million in 2021 and ultimately cleared for development. 

New proposal 

New Urban West called its Sunridge development a “dynamic, mixed-use community with distinct planning areas” in the proposal, and an official familiar with the project said a little less than half the 995-acre property is to be preserved permanently as open space. 

For the other half, according to a preliminary outline submitted to the city, the proposal would include 226,000 square feet of commercial space in a 2.9 million-square-foot business park, 6,550 residential housing units, 44 acres of active parks and sports fields and nearly 9 miles of trails.  

The plan requests a feasibility review for a 10,000-square-foot amphitheater, but that’s likely to be reduced in size in the final plans, according to a source familiar with the project.  

New Urban West announced in March 2023 it had reached a development deal with Blue Ox Holdings LLC, which purchased the former Whittaker-Bermite site. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity to work with the local community and the city of Santa Clarita to design a dynamic project that will transform the center of the city and better connect communities,” said Adam Browning, president of New Urban West, in a previous statement. “We have an opportunity to be bold, think big and create an exciting point of pride for the entire area. Our first step is to listen. Then plan based on these early conversations.” 

The March 6 study session, according to city Planning Manager Patrick Leclair, will provide the developer a chance to share its concept plan with the community.  

“There will not be any decisions made on the Sunridge project at this study session, and a full public hearing process before the Planning Commission and City Council would be required if the developer proceeds with a formal project submittal in the future,” he wrote in a statement. 

“Major roadway improvements to extend Via Princessa through the project site will serve to provide a critical east-west linkage between existing neighborhoods in Santa Clarita,” according to the initial one-stop review, which is an opportunity for a developer to have a high-level, preliminary check of a plan for its feasibility.   

“An internal connection between the newly expanded Via Princessa north to Soledad Canyon Road is also provided. Publicly accessible hiking, biking, walking trails, and ball fields will substantially expand recreational opportunities for city residents.” 

Property history 

From 1934 to 1987, the Whittaker-Bermite Corp. manufactured, stored and tested explosives on a portion of the land, according to a DTSC website that details the remediation effort. The cleanup method used what was considered a green approach that encouraged the growth of perchlorate-eating bacteria. 

“Mixing the soil with acetic acid, which is essentially vinegar and water, the soil was placed in large bags … sealed to keep out oxygen. The soil was amended with other nutrients … prior to placing it in the bags,” according to the state cleanup agency’s website. “As the bacteria grew it needed energy, energy it received by breaking down the perchlorate. The process destroyed the perchlorate without leaving any toxic or harmful byproducts. Each batch of soil took four to six weeks to process from excavation to destruction of the perchlorate.” 

The product left behind naturally occurring chloride, according to the agency, which meant the soil didn’t have to be trucked off-site for cleaning. 

Since 1995, the DTSC has overseen testing of the soil and groundwater for the property, which the agency divided into six lots, with the agency stating the first lot’s action plan was completed in 2004. In February 2021, the DTSC released its hold on the property for $1.4 million.  

Not all of the acreage was contaminated, but at the time, it was considered one of the biggest perchlorate cleanups in the nation, with about 394,000 cubic yards of soil on 226 acres, according to the DTSC. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and depleted uranium were also found on the property, the agency stated. 

Perchlorate “affects the ability of the thyroid gland to take up iodine, which is needed to make hormones that regulate bodily functions after they are released into the blood,” according to the DTSC’s website. 

In June 2022, a federal judge awarded local water retailer-wholesaler, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency, a final judgment of $65.9 million for the cleanup of the contamination, which, combined with an earlier settlement, made the total recovery to date $68.8 million.  

Previous reporting on the settlement noted the additional award came from the agency finding more wells had become impacted by perchlorate and groundwater contaminants since 2007, the time of the last multimillion-dollar settlement. It filed the subsequent suit in 2018. 

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