Picture yourself on a roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
You’ve just crested a breath-taking arch in the ride and you’re about to drop.
Chances are you can’t take your eyes off that terrifying plunge of track ahead of you. But if you halted the coaster there and lifted your eyes above your white knuckles, you’d see an expanse of dry, grassy hills below.
That’s where Newhall Land Development LLC’s latest proposal – called Entrada – is planned.
“Entrada” is Spanish for “entrance” and in this case it means the entrance to Newhall Ranch, and the 21,000 new homes planned by Newhall Land for development on the west side of the Golden State Freeway.
The simplest way to picture Newhall Land’s vision for Entrada is to picture Valencia Town Center — a centralized cluster of shops, theaters, restaurants and offices — and then transplant it between Six Flags and Westridge.
“It is sort of an entrance to Newhall Ranch,” said Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer.
“The vision includes office buildings in addition to retail outlets, restaurants — the type of place where a Dave & Buster’s would go — the idea being that this would be the type of place for these types of tenants.”
The development proposed for the rolling hills north of Westridge and south of Six Flags is expected to create a myriad environmental concerns — from chloride entering the Santa Clara River and oak trees being uprooted to not having enough water to meet firefighting standards.
With the goal of helping them measure effects of the development, officials with the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Department are seeking comments from Santa Clarita Valley residents.
Until Aug. 14, copies of the department’s notice of preparation, which contains details about the project’s possible impacts, will be available to the public at local libraries.
In addition, a “scoping meeting” has been set for the evening of July 28 at Rancho Pico Junior High School on West Valencia Boulevard in Stevenson Ranch.
“We want to elicit the input from people about anything we may have left out,” said Samuel Dea, the department’s supervising regional planner.
Under Newhall Land’s proposal, Entrada takes up 515 acres inside a chunk of land shaped like a pizza slice, with the tip of that slice sitting where the Chevron gas station sits on the southwest corner of The Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway.
If you stand on The Old Road looking at the gas station, you will see the line of electricity transmission towers to your left, next to the putting greens of the Tournament Players Club Valencia.
That utility easement line separates Entrada from the homes in Westridge.
How far does the property extend?
Take The Old Road to Valencia Boulevard, then drive along Westridge Parkway until the road ends. You’ll stop at the back door of the Entrada project.
Building Entrada would mean extending Westridge Parkway over to Magic Mountain Parkway. This would be the wide edge of our pizza slice.
Extending the two parkways promises full fast-track access to Newhall Ranch, making Entrada truly “the entrance” to Newhall Ranch.
County planners have included a horseshoe-shaped area of golf course land, owned by the Tournament Players Club at Valencia, LLC since some of the outer edges of the land — not affecting the golf course — could be affected.
Developing next door to one California’s more popular theme parks requires some particular planning.
Tim Burkhart, general manager of Six Flags Magic Mountain, says he couldn’t ask for a better neighbor.
For him, the new neighbor has an old, and trusted, familiar face.
“They’ve been good neighbors to us,” he said of Newhall Land, “and I like to think we’ve been good neighbors for them.”
“Look, growth and development around our park is inevitable,” he said. “I’d rather see a good job done by someone I know, rather than some outfit I know nothing about.
“Newhall has always produced good, well-planned developments.”
Newhall Land wants to develop three times as many multi-family units in Entrada as there are single-family homes: 1,232 multi-family units to 408 single-family homes.
According to Lauffer, the multi-family units could mean affordable housing, condominiums, town homes or hotels.
“Yes, the goal is to provide some more affordable housing,” Lauffer said.
Any of the above options suits Burkhart and Six Flags just fine, he said.
Entrada planners have set aside enough land for a few Dave & Buster’s-type of entertainment restaurant businesses: commercial areas totaling 726,000 square feet of development. In addition to the 408 single-family homes, they plan to develop 39 condo lots and 17 commercial lots.
And, because Newhall Land owns all the property around the theme park and over to California Highway 126, plans are in the works to extend both Commerce Center Drive and Media Center Drive, better connecting Castaic to Valencia and Westridge to both.
At that point, Entrada would truly live up to its “entrance” name.
Like Burkhart, Rosalind Wayman, who is field deputy to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, says she has confidence in Newhall Land’s ability to make Entrada an asset to the community.
“When I think of Entrada, I base it on my experience with Valencia,” said Wayman. “I’ve lived here for 50-plus years, and I saw Valencia being built.
“Now that I see it completed, I think we can say that Newhall Ranch and Entrada will be the same.
“I have to base the future on the history of the past,” she said.
More than 8.1 million cubic yards of grading have to be done to level out the area for construction, both on-site and around it, as well as 7.4 million cubic yards “balanced” or shaped on-site.
That’s just one of the environmental impacts that the development would have.
“It’s all part of the process,” Lauffer said about the county’s litany of possible impacts caused by the project.
“It’s all part of moving forward,” she said.
Here’s what the regional planning department has identified as possible environmental impacts in is notice of preparation, a myriad of concerns from fire and flood to noise and sewage:
* Oil wells: several abandoned oil wells, none of them active, dot the site.
* Landslides: The property contains landslide areas.
* Floods: The department’s initial study says with the grading required, “there is a potential for high mud flow conditions should a landslide occur during the rainy season.”
* Fires: Entrada is in “a very high fire hazard severity zone.”
* Noise: The initial study identifies Magic Mountain theme park as a “high noise source.”
* Water quality: The department has concerns about the discharge of storm water and runoff into Santa Clara River.
* Air quality: Dust kicked up by extensive grading “could be considered excessive.”
* Biological: The grading would also get rid of “substantial amounts of natural habitat areas.”
* Visual: It would also “substantially alter” the view inside Entrada.
* Historical: Workers could run into historic structures.
* Traffic: Possible traffic congestion is a concern due to 1,640 new dwelling units.
* Sewage: An Environmental Impact Review is needed to determine if there is capacity available.
* Library: More people mean an increased demand for “library services.”
* Utilities: There’s not enough water pressure to fight fires.
* Animals: Entrada could “degrade wildlife populations and impact the number of rare or endangered species.”
* Trees: Planners need permits to remove 65 of 102 oak trees and protection for others.
“We’re addressing all of these areas,” Lauffer said.
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