The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the expansion of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon.
The construction of the “Disney|ABC Studios at the Ranch” project would include 510,000 to 555,950 square feet of indoor studios and eight to 12 sound stages at Placerita Canyon Road and State Route 14, at the western edge of the 890-acre property. The supervisors approved both alternatives.
After a public hearing, the board certified the final environmental impact report, changed general-plan designations from hillside management and floodplain to commercial; granted a permit to remove 158 oak trees (including 16 heritage oaks) and approved a parking permit, among other things.
Disney would plant 1,600 new oak trees, two-thirds more than required to replace those being removed.
Community members from the Santa Clarita Valley and around Los Angeles County attended the public hearing to give their opinion on the proposed project.
An official with the special projects section of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning first gave a staff recommendation to the board.
Department staff found that increase noise was the only noticeable impact to the environment, that it was compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, because of a undeveloped buffer zone maintained around the ranch.
The project is also consistent with the 1990 Santa Clarita Valley area plan, and department staff recommended that the board approve the plan.
“This is a very positive development in the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, “and not just the Santa Clarita Valley, but the state and nation.”
Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar and officials with the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation also spoke in support of the project.
“I have long been supportive of the film industry and jobs and the economic impact it brings to our community,” Kellar said. “We couldn’t ask for a better neighbor than Disney.”
He said that he did not want Southern California to lose the film industry the same way it lost the aerospace industry.
Don Fleming, co-chairman of the SCVEDC Executive Committee, commended Disney Studios for putting thought into the project and for investing in the community by planning to build a public trail on the ranch.
Calvin Hedman, also Executive Committee co-chairman, weighed in, in favor of the project, citing the fact that it would give many Santa Clarita residents the opportunity to work closer to home.
Golden Oak Ranch“This is just the type of economic development the county should be supporting,” he said.
Members of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians expressed cautious optimism about the project, asking Disney to be careful to protect cultural resources on the site.
“We are not opposed to the project,” said Alan Salazar, a member of the Tataviam Band.
“We just want to continue (having) our voices heard.”
A Tataviam cultural monitor will be onsite during construction.
Lynne Plambeck with the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment asked the board to consider the fact that although the EIR did not show a large environmental impact for the project, global warming and natural habitats would be affected.
“How can such a statement be made when you’re adding an additional parking area and all those cars?” she said. “How can adding 12 sound stages be compatible (with the surrounding area)?”
But Adam Gilbert, Disney’s director of corporate real estate, said county staff had taken environmental concerns into consideration.
Gilbert said that construction would help restore Placerita Creek, where currently materials left over from SR-14 construction are eroding into the water. He also said that Disney is committed to reducing their impact to oak trees.
The county Regional Planning Commission had signed off in June and issued a statement of overriding considerations, citing increased employment in the media and entertainment industry, permanent protection of natural terrain, the addition of oak trees, public trail access to the Angeles National Forest and surplus water storage facilities for community fire protection and water supply.
“These, and other project design features beyond those that are required … provide benefits supporting the determination that the benefits of the project outweigh the project’s remaining significant and unavoidable impacts,” according to a county staff report.
About Golden Oak Ranch
Walt Disney first leased The Golden Oak Ranch in the late 1950s for the “Spin and Marty” segments of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” The Studio purchased the property in 1959 to utilize the variety of natural settings. Over the years, they acquired additional land which has brought the total to just under 900 acres. Disney productions that have shot at the Ranch include: “Old Yeller,” “The Parent Trap,” “The Shaggy Dog” and more recently, “The Santa Clause,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Princess Diaries II” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” II and III.
Over the years, other motion picture and television production groups began filming at the Ranch and added to the variety of sets already there. A western street was created for the 1978 and remained active until its removal in 2008. Other sets and locations include a rural covered bridge on a lake, wood bridges, the Golden Oak Hall from the movie “The Country Bears,” farm houses, barns, fields, country roads, tree groves, a forest area, a creek bed and the newest addition of Pine Lake, which includes a waterfall and was designed to give the feeling of a High Sierra setting.
Leon Worden of SCVTV contributed to this report.