Planning OKs Promenade Flats with conditions 

Santa Clarita City Hall

The city of Santa Clarita’s Planning Commission denied an appeal by opponents of Promenade Flats, a live-work apartment complex with retail space planned for a shared IHOP parking lot — after a nearly two-hour discussion Tuesday at City Hall that led to several concessions being made on the project.  

The proponents of the project have said that under Senate Bill 330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, the plan only needs to comply with the city’s objective design standards, which it does, in order to create more housing, which was the idea behind the law. 

Aside from that, said Hunt Braly, who’s representing the developer, Bob Neman and Harvard 826 LLC, it’s a good in-fill project that provides enough parking spaces as one of those objective standards, as well as agreeing to the commission’s request for a parking management plan.  

“This project went through a lot of changes and a lot of work with the Planning Department to get to where you are today,” Braly said during his presentation, giving a brief summary of the project that was first proposed five years ago. “And whether there’s agreement with whether you should or you should not, that law really limits what you can do if we meet those objective standards.” 

The parking impacts were the most repeated concern brought up by the appellant, represented by Reena Newhall and several other tenant owners of the neighboring Cinema Drive business center.  

Prior to the meeting, Newhall said she decided to pay the appeal fee of approximately $4,300 despite being aware of the law and how the state has eroded local control. 

Jill Cox has run Jill’s Cake Creations out of Santa Clarita Plaza for the last 25 years, she said, and most of the tenants she had spoken with expressed concerns, so she wasn’t planning on representing a group. 

The building looks nice, she said, but the impacts on parking will really hurt the other businesses there. 

“My shop, and it’s a small shop, I’m allowed 3.25 parking spots. I have five employees and I hope to continue to have customers,” she said, going through math that she said didn’t add up, particularly since her customers need to park out front for cake deliveries. She also added that she was looking forward to the potential addition of lights and security cameras for the lot. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, the owners of the IHOP also registered their concerns for the first time publicly in front of the Planning Commission, hiring Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates, a former partner of Braly’s when both were at a different firm. 

Braly introduced Brandon Helfer, CEO of Proper Parking Co., as the entity that would manage the project’s parking plan full-time, adding it would need to be flexible to address concerns that could arise as the plans are ironed out. 

City Planning Manager Patrick Leclair acknowledged Tuesday there was no precedent in the city for the requirement of such a parking plan as a condition of approval. 

However, the Planning Commission heard a number of concerns from the tenants who are in Santa Clarita Plaza, which also uses the IHOP parking lot. They said they’d be especially concerned if there’s a lengthy construction timeline. 

Helfer said a lot of the problems that the Cinema Drive business park and the neighboring plaza are experiencing are because there is no management of the lot at all. The addition of a full-time attendant, cameras, LED indicators and signage will address the concerns the tenants have, he said. 

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Helfer said, adding that without someone to audit the lot, he can see how there might be problems, but that’s why his company is being brought on. “The main thing is what’s been going on in the past. There’s been no oversight at all.” 

Commissioner Rene Berlin responded by asking “how IHOP felt about all this,” which was Kanowsky’s cue. 

He asked the commission for two things: to hold off on approval and mandate a “scoping meeting” for outreach with the tenants surrounding the project “to see if we can’t work out some of these issues”; he also asked for a pair of conditions. The first was that no construction begins until the new parking lot is complete for the project, the other is that no construction begins until all the permits have been issued and the Fire Department signs off on construction. 

Braly said these were already conditions of approval and reiterated the significance of SB 330 in ultimately being determinate of the plans.  

The Planning Commission approved the project 4-1, under a number of conditions, with Commissioner Tim Burkhart calling himself “the contrarian.”  

The city’s conditions included: a city staff review of the parking plan after six to eight months; a requirement the four live-work units can’t be converted to apartments for at least one year; parking sign requirements and shade canopies.  

“And my gripe really isn’t with the applicant, it’s with the state,” Burkhart said, adding he knew the project was headed to the City Council on appeal regardless. “We’re now in a position on projects like this where we have to ask the applicant what they want to do … and in all the time that I’ve been doing this, we’ve had a little bit of leverage to try and make things better for the city.” 

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