The Whittaker-Bermite property is an undeveloped 996-acre site located in the center of the City of Santa Clarita, California. The property is roughly bounded by Soledad Canyon Road on the north, Golden Valley Road on the east, Railroad Avenue on the west and Circle J Ranch on the south (A link to the site map is above). This former munitions testing and manufacturing site has contamination issues, which include perchlorate, volatile organic compounds, and both soil and groundwater contamination. The current ownership of the property ownership is complex with multiple entities holding interests in the property. However, the financial responsibility for site cleanup continues to remain with the Whittaker Corporation and their successors.
The Clean-Up Efforts:
The site clean-up is under the supervision of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). DTSC issued an order to Whittaker Corporation to perform site clean-up. The property has been divided into seven “operable units” with differing clean-up strategies for each unit. Based upon the present schedule, it is forecasted that the clean-up of the soil will be completed prior to 2020 and the groundwater clean-up could take 20+ years.
In May 1995, the Santa Clarita City Council approved the Porta Bella Specific Plan and accompanying Development Agreement, creating vested land use entitlements on the property. These entitlements allow for the development of 1,244 single family residential units and 1,667 multi-family residential units, as well as 96 acres of commercial and business/office park uses. The Specific Plan also envisions 407 acres of open space and 42 acres of recreational uses. One of the conditions of approval for the Specific Plan (DS12) requires that the site be remediated prior to development.
Pursuant to the existing Development Agreement, development of the site will also require the construction of millions of dollars of public infrastructure (roads, parks, schools, etc.) at the developer’s expense. While the Development Agreement will expire on January 1, 2021, the Specific Plan for the property will remain in place indefinitely until it is amended or replaced by another entitlement granted by the City Council in the future, which City staff believes is likely to be proposed prior to development of the site.
The City of Santa Clarita’s Interests:
The City of Santa Clarita has multiple interests in the property. First, the City wants to ensure that the clean-up is completed expeditiously and in a manner that will accommodate the future re-use of the property. The potential that there may be insufficient insurance funds to complete the clean-up, if the remediation proceeds under existing strategies and at the current pace, is not an acceptable end result for the City Council and the community.
Second, the City has identified in its General Plan, several roads which must be completed in order to ensure that the City’s General Plan Circulation Element continues to function at an acceptable level of service. Third, given the size of the property and its central location, the City wants to ensure that whatever is ultimately developed on the site is consistent with the surrounding neighborhoods and will provide employment and economic benefit to the community as a whole. The City of Santa Clarita is currently experiencing an imbalance of housing to jobs. Therefore, eventual development of the site provides excellent opportunities to increase jobs in the local community.