City committee to discuss Sunridge agreement 

The property is located south of Soledad Canyon Road, east of Railroad Avenue and west of Golden Valley Road, and it’s important to the city not just because of its location, but also its size and significance to the communities that have sprung up around the land. It was known locally for years as the doughnut hole due to its soil contamination by perchlorate and depleted uranium that made it an untouchable plot in the middle of town until the state gave its all-clear.

The Santa Clarita City Council’s Development Committee discussed a new kind of agreement for plans to build more than 6,000 multifamily homes in the center of town.  

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth referred to the centrally located property — roughly 1.5 square miles south of Soledad Canyon Road, east of Railroad Avenue and west of Golden Valley Road — as one of the most significant in the city, due to its size, prominence and history during a discussion in March. 

Formerly known as the Whittaker-Bermite property, it was cleared for development several years ago after decades as a Department of Toxic Substances Control cleanup site. The 995-acre property is now being referred to in plans in front of the city as Sunridge.  

During that discussion in the spring, developer New Urban West said it was seeking permission for a deal memo with the city to negotiate broad commitments the city might agree to so the developer could begin its planning with an understanding of what’s allowable. 

On Tuesday, committee members Councilman Jason Gibbs and Councilwoman Laurene Weste got their first chance to hear some of the tentative asks at City Hall, ahead of a presentation to the entire City Council. 

“The applicants asked the council (for the meeting) because they would like to do an MOU (memorandum of understanding) that outlines the development process for the project,” said Jason Crawford, director of community development for the city, “and the council directed staff to explore that.” 

Jonathan Frankel, vice president of New Urban West, who spoke for the project at the previous study session at City Hall, said he knew he was at the beginning of a long process, which would still entail seeking Planning Commission and council approvals. 

“I think we just want to reiterate that we understand the importance of this project to the city to the community,” Frankel said Tuesday. “And we really look forward to the partnership and making sure that we can deliver a world-class project and all these amenities. There’s a ton of work to do, but I think that this gives us the feedback —  we don’t want to do anything without really understanding the priorities of the council, of the city, prior to launching what will probably be a yearslong and many millions of dollars spent in planning and doing that right.” 

Frankel likened the request to the process the city is using to guide the future for the Valencia Town Center mall property, which the city called a “place-making framework” that included guidelines for how many homes are envisioned for that mixed-use development and rules meant to keep the development of residential and commercial somewhat synchronized. 

The Sunridge plans indicated there were also some allowances being sought over the previously approved plan for the land known as “Porta Bella.”  

“The (Sunridge) project proposes up to 226,000 (square feet) of commercial, 2,900,000 (square feet) of business park, 6,550 residential housing units, a 10,000-seat amphitheater, 44 acres of active parks and sports fields, nearly 9 miles of trails, and 621 acres of passive open space,” according to the first Sunridge application.  

For reference, the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park is approximately 262 acres in size, or a little over 11.4 million square feet. 

The developer’s ask was more than double the number of residential units a previous council approved for the same property in 1995 — from 2,911 to more than 6,500 — which Smyth said could bring “push-back.” 

One of the preliminary concerns mentioned by the council was brought up by Councilwoman Marsha McLean, who said that in the Porta Bella version, both Magic Mountain and Santa Clarita parkways were to be built out. “More roads” is a call she hears often, she said. 

Gibbs and Councilman Bill Miranda both noted the plan as discussed didn’t quite have a desirable “regional draw” aspect, such as a major venue or amphitheater, but that also was part of the discussion. 

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