SFXS Partners, the developer attempting to construct a five-building commercial center south of Newhall, has voluntarily pulled their application for the project.
In 2008, SFXS Partners submitted an application to construct the Sierra Crossing shopping center on approximately 10 acres of land in the area that’s come to be called the Newhall Gateway.
The triangular shaped area consists of 18.6 acres, and is bordered by Newhall Avenue to the north, Sierra Highway to the west and State Route 14 to the east.
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The land consists of four parcels, including two small portions controlled by automobile repair shops, and another by the University of Southern California, which owns about eight acres.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the members voted to have USC’s land appraised after comments that, although USC would be willing to sell, the university and the developer could not reach a compromise.
According to Paul Brotzman, Director of Community Development for the City of Santa Clarita, the City received an e-mail from the developer stating its decision to cancel its application the next morning.
Although the Planning Commission approved the project along with its conceptual design in June 2009, City Councilmember Marsha McLean later appealed it based on environmental and aesthetic concerns.
Citing a section from the City’s Unified Development Code, which outlines rules and guidelines for planned development, a staff report stated, “The project is not creative or imaginative. The project is a typical freeway-oriented commercial center and does not meet the City’s vision for development at a major gateway entrance into the City.”
Since the Newhall Gateway is within the reach of the City of Santa Clarita Redevelopment Agency, the City has a say in the project’s development, said Brotzman.
“That’s the legal basis the City actually has to be able to have a direct involvement in the development of the property,” he said.
Brotzman said that a redevelopment agency often plays a part in developing blighted areas, or land that is impacted significantly by the environment.
“If you look at (the Newhall Gateway), you’ve got significant water course issues and potential flooding issues,” he said. “The area is not well-maintained.”
In early 2010, the Redevelopment Agency began working with the Poliquin Kellogg Design Group to develop something more in line with what the City viewed as “creative and imaginative.”
That design, which incorporates the Newhall Creek, consists of 10 buildings, a diverse plant palette and a pedestrian bridge.
Nevertheless, it hinges upon the cooperation of both SFXS and USC as it utilizes all 18 acres.
Now that SFXS has pulled out, that City’s vision, or any vision for that matter, is on hold.
“So now the question becomes, ‘Can and should the City hold up the development so the property can develop to the highest and best use?” said Brotzman. “Or does the property owner have rights to develop their property sooner and the City should facilitate that happening to something less than the highest and best use?’”