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Homes proposed for contaminated site

• Plan calls for 3,500 houses on former site of Whittaker-Bermite

Posted: May 14, 2008 2:14 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Looking west, an aerial view of the undeveloped middle of Santa Clarita shows San Fernando Road and Magic Mountain Parkway at top left, and Soledad Canyon Road and Saugus Speedway on the top right.

New houses could pop up for sale on the 996-acre Whittaker-Bermite property in as little as five years.

SunCal Cos. submitted plans to the city Tuesday to eventually build nearly 3,500 homes, shops and office buildings on the site of the contaminated Whittaker-Bermite site in the center of the city.

Local agencies have been working to clean up the site contaminated with perchlorate, a by-product of rocket fuel that serves as evidence of the site's history as a munitions plant for several decades.

Groundwater cleanup on the site is expected to take about 20 years, said City Planning Manager Lisa Webber. Soil cleanup is also currently underway, but Webber said it is unknown how long that remediation will take.

She said this will be determined through a remediation action plan, which will be developed in conjunction with Midtown's environmental review process.

"Overall, the city is encouraged that the process is moving forward and there will be a productive re-use (on that site)," she said.

Webber said the company is planning community outreach efforts and the city expects the project will be modified following community input.

SunCal expects to come before the city in public hearings in mid 2009 and begin construction in 2011. The first homes could be for sale by

"By moving forward with the planning process, we are able to take a very important step in making the Midtown project a reality," SunCal spokesman Ray Pearl said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with Santa Clarita residents, city staff, planning commissioners and City Council members to create an environment that will benefit the region and the people that live and work here."

The property stretches along Soledad Canyon Road in Saugus and is bordered by Golden Valley Road in Canyon Country.

Plans call for a mix of single family homes and town homes, a commercial center, 40 acres of parkland and more than 400 acres of open space.

Development of the site would likely also include completion of several city artery roads.

This is not the first attempt to develop the property, the last large swath of undeveloped property in Santa Clarita.

In the 1980s, the previous land owner, Whittaker-Bermite, filed cleanup plans and in 1992, officials from the Department of Toxic Substances Control determined the company had omitted information from its reports.

Around 1989, plans were made for the area to be developed into a 2,911-unit residential community to be called Porta Bella. Whittaker sold the Saugus property in 1999.

The owner of the land, Remediation Financial Inc., filed for bankruptcy in July 2004, at which point cleanup responsibilities reverted to the previous owner, Whittaker.

SunCal, which is also planning the NorthLake development in Castaic, purchased the Whittaker-Bermite site for $63.8 million in 2006. The company purchased the property along with Cherokee Investment Partners, which specializes in cleaning up contaminated sites for resale.


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