Los Angeles County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the construction of a major high-tech television and film production facility on a sprawling ranch near Santa Clarita that Walt Disney chose as a backdrop for many of his studio’s productions.
The proposal by Walt Disney Co.'s Disney/ABC unit would develop 58 acres of the 890-acre Golden Oak Ranch in the northwestern portion of the county, adding more than a half-million square feet of studio space, multiple sound stages, writers’ bungalows and other developments in Placerita Canyon.
Before the 4-0 vote, Supervisor Mike Antonovich said the project would create thousands of jobs, $533 million in annual economic activity and new revenue for the county and state.
“Many of the film production companies are now going out of state,” he said. “This is an opportunity to increase film production in Los Angeles County.”
The project, which has been in the works for four years, has widespread support from local leaders and residents. More than 100 local supporters of the plan attended the supervisors' meeting.
Jim McClafferty, supervising location manager for "NCIS” and a Santa Clarita Valley resident who has worked on the ranch for decades, said the project was vital.
“What can California do to protect our homegrown industry? We can support this project,” he said, calling the entertainment industry vital to the state’s economic health. “If we’re going to grow the California entertainment industry, then we must be competitive. Otherwise productions will increasingly choose to base their productions in other states and other countries.”
A handful of speakers opposed the project because of environmental concerns, questioning how it would affect air and water quality, expressing dismay at the impact to the wildlife that lives on the ranch, and complaining about the need to cut down 158 oak trees to make way for the development.
“Placerita Canyon is a lovely area, a significant wildlife environment and a wildlife corridor. The greatest challenge that we face locally, nationally, statewide and globally is loss of biological diversity,” said David Lutness. “We should do everything that we can to encourage and maintain our biological diversity.”
The ranch has been used for filming for decades, first leased by Disney in the 1950s as a backdrop for segments of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” His company acquired the land and surrounding areas over the years. Productions filmed there include “Old Yeller,” “The Parent Trap,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”