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County commission OKs Disney Golden Oak Ranch expansion

Project now heads to supervisors for review

Posted: June 19, 2013 12:31 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2013 5:56 p.m.
An artist's rendering of some of the sound stages proposed for construction at the Walt Disney Company's Golden Oak movie ranch in Placerita Canyon. An artist's rendering of some of the sound stages proposed for construction at the Walt Disney Company's Golden Oak movie ranch in Placerita Canyon.
An artist's rendering of some of the sound stages proposed for construction at the Walt Disney Company's Golden Oak movie ranch in Placerita Canyon.

LOS ANGELES — An ambitious expansion plan for Disney’s Golden Oak movie ranch in Placerita Canyon received unanimous approval Wednesday from the Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission.

The proposal, which many say would mean an economic boon for the Santa Clarita Valley, now goes to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for consideration.

The plan calls for the Walt Disney Company to develop approximately 58 acres on Placerita Canyon Road near Highway 14 in Newhall to accommodate additional sound studios and support structures for the movie ranch.

Planning commissioners approved two different versions of the project Wednesday. The first alternative is a larger development, entailing construction of approximately 555,950 square feet of structures, including 12 sound stages.

The second would involve construction of 510,000 square feet of structures, including eight sound stages.
Regardless of the extent of development, the project’s proposed site is the westernmost portion of the Golden Oak Ranch near the Highway 14 freeway.

Much of the project would be built on two pads left over from the construction of Highway 14, according to Adam Gilbert, director of corporate real estate for Disney.

Long owned by the Disney Company, Golden Oak Ranch is a frequent backdrop or primary exterior location for movies and TV shows ranging from 1957’s “Old Yeller” to 1977’s “Pete’s Dragon” 1997-2003’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and 2001’s “Pearl Harbor.”

Representatives from Disney, ABC and entities in the Santa Clarita Valley spoke before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, citing the positive impact the project would have on the local economy.

For instance, the project would bring much-needed new jobs to the area, according to Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

“This project and the jobs it will bring cannot happen quickly enough for our community,” said Crawford, who was speaking on behalf of Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar.

Construction alone would create 3,152 new jobs and have a positive economic impact of $522 million, according to estimates.

On construction completion, the project would create 2,854 full- and part-time jobs and produce $533 million in annual economic activity, according to estimates.

That figure includes $1.3 million in new annual revenues to Los Angeles County and $26 million to the state of California.

Many of those jobs could be attractive to Santa Clarita Valley residents who presently commute outside the valley to work, said Jonas Peterson, outgoing chief executive officer and president of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation.

“This project is the best chance to position the Santa Clarita Valley as a leader in the media entertainment industry,” Peterson said.

Several local residents made the trek to Los Angeles to attend Wednesday’s meeting, many to speak in favor of the project.

The exceptions were longtime environmental advocates Cam Noltemeyer and Lynne Plambeck.

Noltemeyer said she had two primary concerns with the project: More traffic and higher water demand.

“While Disney deals in the fantasy and does it very well, we live in the city and the area where you’re proposing this project,” Noltemeyer said.

“We’ve had years and years of uncontrolled growth, and I think it’s about time it stops somewhere,” Noltemeyer said.

Two local representatives of the Sierra Club spoke favorably for the project, though both said they would like the plan to save more oak trees.

Sandra Cattell, a Placerita Canyon resident and Sierra Club member, said she would like to see cisterns used to retain water on the site.

It is expected the county Board of Supervisors will consider the planned expansion within the next two months.

Gilbert said he could not speculate on how long it would take for construction to begin on the project if it is approved. The planning process is still ongoing, he said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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