Santa Clarita City Council members gave the green light Tuesday to Sierra West — an 83-unit, five-story assisted living and memory care facility in Newhall — and MetroWalk, a 498-unit residential development in Canyon Country.
Councilwoman Marsha McLean voted to approve both projects after raising concerns about their architectural styles.
“Every single building has flat roofs with square windows and not a lot of imagination and not a lot of interest,” McLean said of Sierra West. “The building was supposed to (be) taken after Newhall Crossings and the design of that.”
Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste helped to address McLean’s concerns with her project approval motion, which requested that the developer adds architectural features “that will allow for a softening of the square box look.”
“There are so many families that want their loved one to be nearby so that they can take care of them,” Weste added.
Norris Whitmore, the project developer, attended the public hearing and sounded amenable to making architectural enhancements.
“We think this a great addition for the city,” Whitmore said. “As far as the architecture goes, we have no problem doing what we need to do to doll it up a little more if that’s what we’re looking for.”
Whitmore will also have to plant oak trees to account for the removal of five existing trees as part of six conditions of approval set by the Planning Commission last month.
The Planning Commission also recommended that the council approve MetroWalk, to be located east of the Vista Canyon project.
During a presentation to the council Tuesday, a representative for the developer said MetroWalk looks to match its neighbor’s architectural style and “complete the overall vision of Vista Canyon.”
McLean objected to the project’s style.
“Canyon Country deserves to have really nice designs, not boxes,” she said, calling on her fellow council members to adhere to the established community character decisions. “(The developer) said it’s Rustic California. It is not.”
Weste applauded the intergenerational living that the project makes possible through a combination of affordable and market-rate senior units and non-senior units.
“It’s a great marriage of what’s best about traditional Santa Clarita and what’s new and exciting about what we’re bringing,” said Weste.
“This is a good model for future developers that are looking to build in Santa Clarita,” added Councilman Cameron Smyth, noting the state’s increasing presence in traditionally local land use issues.
Councilman Jason Gibbs also offered his support and contributed a condition of approval that any accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, added at a later date would also be deed-restricted as senior housing.
Representatives from the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce voiced their support for the new economic activity that will result from the project.