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Planning Commission OKs North Hills Project

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Santa Clarita Planning Commission has given the green light to plans for a 540-unit luxury housing development, which was originally to have 1,745 units before an earthquake fault was discovered under the property.

The North Hills development west of the Golden State Freeway and north of Valencia Boulevard was accepted Tuesday night by the Planning Commission without any formal opposition and will officially be ratified in 15 days unless an appeal is filed with the city, said Ken Pulskamp, assistant city manager.

“This is the kind of development the city encourages,” he said.

By cutting the project’s size by two-thirds, builder Newhall Land & Farming avoided the kind of criticism it has received over the 25,000-unit Newhall Ranch project, just across the Golden State Freeway from North Hills.

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Just before the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the city requested that the size of the project be reduced to 1,420 units, according to Jeff Lambert, the city’s planning manager. After the quake, Newhall Land hired Allan Seward, a Newhall geologist, to examine the seismic conditions of the 184 acres the project would rest on, said company spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer.

Seward discovered the fault and named it the Kew fault. At Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, he said the “sympathetic” fault runs under less than half of the property and is benign because sympathetic faults usually react to the movement of other faults, rather than causing earthquakes on their own.

Lambert said the law requires that structures be built at least 50 feet from a fault line, and the homes planned for North Hills will adhere to that requirement.

“The fault was only one of the reasons we changed the plans,” Lauffer said. “We took into account the changing market demands as well as the geological issues. We reduced the number of units, but we’re building executive housing. We’re really missing that here and it’s needed.”

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North Hills will include views of its own golf course plus swimming pools, tennis courts and a children’s playground, Lauffer said, adding that of the 163 oak trees on the property, only 31 will have to be cut or moved and the company is working to reduce that number.

Another issue that Newhall must address before breaking ground is the cost of the schools that will be needed for North Hills.

The company is currently in negotiations with the William S. Hart Union High School District over North Hills, Newhall Ranch and all of the company’s developments in the school district.

“We are hopeful that representatives of the Newhall Land & Farming Co. concur that they are responsible to mitigate the full impact of their developments,” said Hart Supt. Robert Lee.


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