Due to current zoning laws, the Castaic community is fighting an uphill battle as they oppose the development of another gas station, according to Los Angeles County officials.
Castaic residents voiced their concerns on the proposed development at a public hearing Monday, in which the Castaic Area Town Council ultimately voted 5-0 to oppose the project.
Though the gas station, located at the corner of Lake Hughes Road and Castaic Road, would be the 10th fueling station within a half-mile in Castaic, the project is zoned for service stations by-right, according to Edel Vizcarra, planning and public works deputy for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the county’s 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
The proposal, which has been submitted to the L.A. County Department of Regional Planning for review and approval, includes a nearly 1-acre station with six dispensers, a 960-square-foot snack shop, a bio-filtration pond and a 50-foot pylon sign, according to Ben Steckler, entitlement manager with Fiedler Group.
The development proposal has highlighted the specifications set out in the current community standards district, which implements special development standards for area usage, and in this case, designates the project site as part of a trucking-focused area.
With the current CSD, the only issue would be the 50-foot sign that is larger than what the CSD allows. If this is denied, the applicant can still open the service station, just with a smaller pole sign.
“Zones are what they are,” Vizcarra said. “By right, you can’t tell them that they can’t build there, but by working with the community, we can develop a plan to discourage these types of uses.”
“A lot of people may look at our town as just a truck stop, (but) we’re looking at the future,” council member Jim D’Addario said, adding that with the new home developments coming in the near future, Castaic will soon be more of a community. “I’ve been here for 20 years and I believe this is a community.”
This seemed to be the consensus among many in attendance, many of whom agreed that instead of another gas station, Castaic needs more family-oriented businesses.
“Honestly, in my opinion, a bank, grocery store or a fast-food restaurant would be a better option,” said longtime Castaic resident Velia Jimenez via message. “I just feel there needs to be a balance. We shouldn’t only be serving the commuters passing through, but we need to serve the residents in Castaic.”
Castaic residents meet to hear plans for a proposed gas station development in Castaic during a public hearing on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal
The proposed station would be a Ralphs-branded station, which John Belanich, chief investment officer with Heslin Holdings, said would allow those with Ralphs loyalty to receive a discount on gas.
“Ralphs has a unique program … (that offers) Costco prices, without Costco lines,” he said. “A Ralphs’ gas station does three to four times that of a typical gas station, so you
will drive a lot of traffic because of the loyalty.”
These savings would be approximately 75 cents to $1 off of a gallon, according to Belanich, which many, including Castaic resident Janette Gabellieri, argue isn’t enough to warrant adding to an already busy intersection.
“I can get 40 to 80 cents (off) at Shell because I’m a Ralphs valued customer,” she said. “I won’t go anywhere near that corner (for discounts on gas) — that corner is nuts.”
Several council members also noted that Ralphs opened a grocery store in the Castaic Village near the proposed project, and it was closed more than five years ago.
“Ralphs abandoned us,” council member Lloyd Carder said. “This project would be really exciting if you guys were saying this is in conjunction with opening up the store across the street. If Ralphs was saying that, I think you’d see lots of smiling faces in this room, but right now, this is just another gas station.”
As the hearing came to a close, D’Addario asked the Castaic residents in the audience to share their opinion by a show of hands — and almost every hand in the room went up in opposition while none went up in support.
Though the council opposed the project, it seems to have opened the discussion to bigger changes that residents believe need to be made.
The Board of Supervisors recognizes the concerns that have been expressed by residents with the current CSD as the community continues to grow, and has been looking at implementing changes, according to Vizcarra.
“We do want to work with the community to create a (new) CSD and revitalize that area,” he said. “Over the years, it has turned into a big destination for trucking … but there is room for other uses that aren’t trucking-centric … and better serve the community’s needs.”