By Luke Money
Signal Staff Writer
December 26, 2013
Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series examining issues that face the Santa Clarita Valley in the year ahead.
Santa Clarita’s transformation into “Hollywood North” for the film industry took another leap forward this year when county supervisors signed off on an expansion to Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon — an expansion that is estimated to add thousands of jobs and inject millions of dollars into the Santa Clarita Valley economy.
The expansion project has been discussed for years and focuses on adding additional sound stages to the movie ranch, which is a filming site for both ABC Studios and the Walt Disney Company.
Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors actually approved two versions of the expansion project at an August board meeting — one that would allow construction of 12 new sound stages and about 555,950 square feet of structures, and another, more modest expansion option of eight sound studios and 510,000 square feet of structures.
The new stages and structures would be built on approximately 58 acres of the 890-acre ranch, which is located off Placerita Canyon Road and Highway 14 in Newhall.
Much of the project area covers construction pads left over from when Highway 14 was built in the 1970s, according to Adam Gilbert, director of corporate real estate for Disney.
Golden Oak Ranch has long been owned by the Disney Company and has been a frequent shooting location for movies and TV shows, including 1957’s “Old Yeller” and 1993-2002’s “The X-Files.”
Proponents of the filming ranch expansion have said the project will have a huge impact on the local economy, with construction alone creating an additional 3,152 new jobs and a positive economic impact of $522 million, according to estimates.
The effects would be even more profound after construction is completed with creation of an estimated 2,854 part- and full-time jobs along with an estimated $533 million in annual economic activity, according to estimates.
That figure includes about $1.3 million in new annual revenues to Los Angeles County and $26 million to the state.
The project received widespread support from a variety of groups and individuals at two public hearings held earlier this year, with Santa Clarita officials touting the positive impact the project would have on the city.
Russell Sypowicz, a Santa Clarita economic development associate, told The Signal after the project’s approval that about 6,000 city residents work in the entertainment industry and should stand to benefit from the expansion.
But some environmental advocates criticized the proposal, saying it could lead to increased traffic in the area — and increased greenhouse gas emission as a result — and that lighting from the new development could negatively impact local wildlife.
Others said they were concerned by the amount of water the expansion would demand.