The process is moving forward for development on the sprawling Golden Oak movie ranch owned by Disney on the east side of Highway 14, as the several-thousand-page draft environmental impact report has been released.
The massive document is in its public-review period until June 18, with a public hearing scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday, June 4 at Hart Hall, located in William S. Hart Park, at 24151 Newhall Ave. Public testimony will be received at that meeting, but no action will be taken at that time.
Announced in 2009, the Disney | ABC Studios at the Ranch project would involve development on about 57 acres of the nearly 900-acre site, adding 12 soundstages, six production offices, six mills, six writer/producer bungalows and a warehouse, commissary and administration building, all totaling roughly a half-million square feet.
The area of the ranch to be developed is at the southwest tip of the property, near the intersection of Placerita Canyon Road and Sierra Highway.
According to the project website, the expansion will be eco-friendly. Plans calls for green building design and construction to achieve federal Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Additionally, Disney plans to plant native and drought-tolerant landscaping, minimize stormwater runoff and consider design features such as solar power systems.
The movie ranch has been home to myriad productions, including films in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Pearl Harbor” and a number of TV shows.
The draft EIR is available for review at the Valencia, Newhall, Canyon Country and Castaic libraries, or online here.
One local environmentalist said she has concerns about the project.
“We are definitely concerned about a project that has to do so much (publicity) in the community, as this one has,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE).
Chief among Plambeck’s concerns are the amount of development the project brings to that side of Highway 14, potential impacts on Placerita Creek and the removal of 159 oak trees.
“For a company that just released Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Lorax,’ to cut down 158 oaks, to me, is incredible,” she said. “They should be able to save those oaks.” (Editor’s note: “The Lorax” is not a Disney movie. It was released by Universal Studios.)
According to the EIR, in addition to the oaks that would be removed, 77 protected oaks would be encroached upon, while more than 1,500 oaks would be planted as a mitigation effort.
Plambeck said that it is too early to tell if environmental groups will file lawsuits over the project, and said her hope is that Disney will “make some adjustments” to its plans.
“Disney is very concerned about being sustainable in many ways,” she said. “When a company that has that sort of reputation in other areas, it’s my hope they will look more closely at what they’re doing here.”
It also remains to be seen if the studio will eventually join Santa Clarita.
The studio currently is located in unincorporated Los Angeles County. While the city would welcome any interest by the studio to annex into Santa Clarita, City Hall still takes a hands-off approach, Economic Development Director Jason Crawford said.
If Disney wanted to annex, he said, “We would be receptive.”
Santa Clarita’s approach to annexation has been to have interested parties take the first step. So far, Crawford said, there have been no conversations about the studio annexing.