Photos and reportage, Leon Worden, SCVTV.com
The Santa Clarita Planning Commission is scheduled Tuesday to take the next steps necessary to annex a pair of Sand Canyon movie ranches into the city – including about the closest thing to a guarantee that a city government can provide, to ensure the movie ranches will be allowed to continue filming as they’ve always done.
The two movie ranches lie just south of Placerita Canyon Road. One is the 400-acre Sable Ranch/Rancho Maria, where Mel Brooks found its lakes, rustic Western town, barn, fields, bamboo and train an ideal setting for his 1983 comedy, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
The other is the 200-plus acre Rancho Deluxe, with a lavish Mediterranean villa, waterfalls, lakes, big oak trees, meadows, cabins, a dojo and a heliport that attracted the likes of “NCIS L.A.,” “The Mentalist” and the Geico gecko.
The Santa Clarita City Council voted to start the annexation process July 12, and both ranches have agreed to be added into the city’s boundaries – if.
That “if” is twofold. The first one is relatively simple. The city would need to pre-zone the properties as “open space/agriculture.”
The second stipulation is somewhat more complex. To get the property owners’ support for the annexation, the city would need to establish a special “overlay zone” giving film companies wide latitude to operate on the property, with provisions for expanding those film operations.
In sum, the annexation involves 686.16 acres, most of which is in private ownership within the Angeles National Forest in unincorporated Los Angeles County. Existing development includes 13 single-family homes and the two movie ranches, each with numerous buildings.
The area was originally going to be included in the Vista Canyon-Fair Oaks-West Sand Canyon annexation application that the council approved earlier this year. It was subsequently pulled to be considered separately.
The 630.3 acres in the forest are currently zoned “open space/National Forest” and would be rezoned “open space/agriculture” Tuesday. The remaining 55.86 acres are zoned “non-urban 1” in the city’s General Plan and would be rezoned “residential estate.”
That’s the easy part. The more detailed part is the creation of a Movie Ranch Overlay Zone that would govern film activities at any movie ranch within the special zone. For now, the zoning would apply only to the Sable and Deluxe ranches, but it could cover other movie ranches in the future.
“It is anticipated that the (Movie Ranch Overlay Zone) could be placed on additional movie ranches in the city, including movie ranches that could be annexed in the future,” a city staff report states. “However, no additional properties are proposed at this time.”
As proposed, the special zoning would allow the two movie ranches to do what they’ve been doing without government interference, as long as they’re operating within the listed parameters.
For instance, they would be able to film 24 hours a day indoors, and 24 hours outdoors as long as they film no closer than 500 feet from their neighbors. Within 500 feet, they would be limited to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Special effects, helicopter landings and “excessive noise” as determined by the city film office also would be limited to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Each affected ranch could build as many temporary movie sets and parking areas as they need for production. Temporary sets could be of any height. Lighting would have to be shielded from streets and adjoining properties.
Each would be pre-approved to have up to 10,000 square feet of office space and two permanent sound stages with a combined maximum area of 40,000 square feet. The sound stages could be up to 56 feet tall, and at least 100 feet from residential neighbors. Additional sound stages would require Planning Commission approval, and all would have to comply with normal building and safety regulations.
Special events would be permitted Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to midnight. Hours could be expanded with planning director approval.
If the Planning Commission approves the new overlay zone Tuesday, it would go to the City Council for final approval.