If you ask the majority of people why they moved to Canyon Country, you usually get words like “country,” “quiet” or at least some sentiment about the area not being too urban. It’s hard to say if that lifestyle will soon be a thing of the past, but the rate of development (at least plans for development) hint that residents may need to scoot over to make room for newcomers.
Canyon Country Magazine readers have been informed of plans for Disney Ranch in Placerita, Vista Canyon breaking ground (soon) in Sand Canyon, and now there’s a new development on the corner of Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road.
It’s not exactly a new concept. Inquiring minds have long wondered what’s happening with the northeast corner of that intersection, which has served as a mobile home park for decades.
“I’ve been involved with the land since 1985, and it’s been a mobile home park all that time,” said Tom Clark, managing member of the project, called Sand Canyon Plaza LLC. “Along the way, specifically in 2002 or 2003, we got approval to build a shopping center.”
It started as two different projects, according to Clark, where 50 acres were for his center and 30 acres, owned by another company, were approved for housing. Royal Clark Development Co. bought the 30 acres to create one project at the site.
“It was a hodgepodge, with the parcels being separate,” said Clark. “We did joint processing to balance the grading, so we didn’t go offsite. We ended up buying the parcel and went with one project. We and the city (Santa Clarita) both agreed it was a better project.”
Sand Canyon Plaza is now one project on 80 acres and includes 580 dwelling units: 148 single family homes, 120 attached townhomes and 312 apartments. Additionally, there is 116,000 square feet of retail/commercial development in the plans.
“In that commercial area we have three sit-down, high-end restaurants, like a P.F. Chang’s, either chain or smaller boutique people,” said Clark, who has a lot of experience building restaurants. “The whole commercial aspect will be upscale. We’re creating a lake, indoor-outdoor seating and then some shops and others, like Coffee Bean, Noah’s Bagels – some of those types of things, all with indoor-outdoor seating and a fair amount of landscaping.”
Sand Canyon Plaza will also include a senior assisted living facility.
“Again, the architecture is not going to be your normal big box retail shopping center look, much more upgraded,” said Clark.
The site was zoned with a commercial designation when the City joined the County of Los Angeles to create “One Valley One Vision” in the year 2000, setting guidelines for the future growth of the SCV, including the preservation of natural resources.
It calls for a “mixed use neighborhood” at this point, said Clark, which means housing and commercial development. “That particular corner has two major streets – Soledad and Sand Canyon – and on- and off-ramps to the freeway,” he added. “Everyone worries about traffic. We are in the process of doing all the studies to make sure we mitigate any problems.”
The Sand Canyon Plaza project heads for the Santa Clarita City Planning Commission late summer to fall of 2015, and then the City Council right after that. So, if all goes well, said Clark, they will break ground in May/June of 2016 and deliver in late 2017 with housing and restaurants, etc.
Issues Raising Eyebrows:
Does More Development = Higher Home Values?
“Home prices are majorly dictated by the big market,” explained Clark. “Notwithstanding all of that, there are ebbs and flows in housing, but it usually goes up. I think that as areas tend to have more amenities and nicer streetscapes and good schools and are safe and look nice, what happens is, values go up. If the opposite happens, values go down. It’s a multitude of factors.”
Local realtor Lisa Kauppi acknowledges that the project will affect her clientele on the east side of the valley. “Honestly, I think it will increase property values on this side of town, to have fewer mobile homes,” said Kauppi, fine estates director at Troop Real Estate. “I’ve heard he says that it’s going to be a style like ‘The Grove’ (retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles).”
Making Canyon Country a “destination location” is part of the conversation residents are having with developers. “The Canyon Country area has great schools and good statistics on crime and what have you, and has that rural feel to it,” said Clark. “It’s not in the middle of Los Angeles – it has its own valley. I think it’s a place people want to go and … we’ve done studies that are very positive about how it’ll go.”
What about the Mobile Home Park Residents?
“We have an ordinance to close the park, and we have purchased a handful of the mobile homes, but we stopped with the Great Recession,” said Clark. “People understand that the park, at some point, is going to be developed. We’re going to make sure we help move them, etc. The ordinance is pretty specific; basically, you take care of them.”
Upon purchase of the mobile homes, Royal Clark Development rented them to locals, who have been informed of the eventual removal of all of the buildings.
“The one thing about mobile homes is – they’re mobile. You can move them in a day – literally,” said Clark. “As we continue to move
Commercial rendering – corner of Sand Canyon and Soledad
through this process and as things move along, we‘re going to be letting people know. I think people see that our location speaks to something more than what it currently has been. I think that the mobile homes are old and the park is old. I look at it as we’re just taking it to another level.”
The residents will likely be able to stay on the property until early 2016, and Clark said the company has tried to accommodate both residents who are renting and compensate mobile home owners who were bought out by Royal Clark.
“People who’ve owned their homes have come out pretty good,” he said.
So Many Building Projects in Canyon Country
“I am very excited about his (Jim Backer’s) project, with the Metro station, the office component, hotels, and I think it’s going to be a good addition to the area,” said Clark, about JSB Development’s Vista Canyon less than a mile away, another big project preceding his. “It’s good for jobs, for the local amenities. I don’t see us necessarily competing. I see us as complementary.”
Vons across the street from the Sand Canyon Plaza project was upgraded recently, but in the past was part of Clark’s proposed development. “Then the Great Recession stopped us in our tracks,” said Clark. “And then Safeway bought it.”
Residents sometimes voice concerns about the change in Canyon Country’s personality with such big developments headed this way. Both Jim Backer of JSB Development and Royal Clark Development claim to adhere to the themes of the community.
“It’s not a done deal and we’re wide open for suggestions,” said Clark. “The City is very mindful of that, Canyon Country keeping its persona, and we’re totally on board with that. It’s not going to be something modern, something strange. There’s a place for everything, this is definitely ‘country.’ We have been reaching out to different groups, Sand Canyon Homeowners Association (SCHOA), and the Canyon Country Advisory Committee (CCAC), and we’ll continue to do that. The reception’s been good thus far.”
Land Use, Commercial and residential
Clark also commented on the contrast some residents draw between the west side and the east side of the SCV.
“A lot of people talk about the Valencia side of Santa Clarita and … I’ve always heard and I’ve seen that Canyon Country residents had to go to Valencia for a lot of things,” he said. “I think we’re just adding those things that aren’t there now, and we’re going to try to do it in a lot of nice ways – again, with the architecture and the lakes.”
“I’m concerned about our sustainability,” said realtor Kauppi. “I do think (the project) is good for the community, I just don’t know if we have the water. How are we doing that without water – why is the City okaying developments when we don’t have water for those who are here?”
According to Clark, there is only a small percentage of the water needs for his development that are not already in place.
“We have a 138-unit mobile home park now that uses water, along with landscaping, to the extent that we do that portion without any change,” said Clark. “Also, we are working with the Vista Canyon project, where they are doing a water treatment plant. We are working with the water company to use that (reclaimed) water for our landscaping.”
Landscaping is approximately half of the water in a project, said Clark. “From landscaping to fixtures … if we use reclaimed for over half our water, then we are taking care of a pretty large portion of our water needs,” said Clark. “I can’t say that we’re neutral, but we’re certainly not using as much water as a project of that size would normally use.”
For more information about Sand Canyon Plaza, contact Tom Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.