The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted its support this week for an indoor soundstage and production complex to be built by The Walt Disney Co. at Golden Oak Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The ranch—about three miles northeast of where the Golden State (5) and Antelope Valley (14) freeways meet in Placerita Canyon—was first leased in the 1950s for the filming of segments of “The Mickey Mouse Club” and Disney classics like “Old Yeller.”
Walt Disney Productions eventually bought Golden Oak and kept acquiring additional parcels, bringing it to 890 acres. More recently, Golden Oak has been used for films like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a number of television shows for the Disney/ABC Television Group.
The studio is considering two alternatives for building out about 60 acres at the western-most portion of the ranch. Each includes more than 500,000 square feet with at least eight soundstages.
One option calls for 12 soundstages in total, while the second would add an office building instead of the extra sets. The board’s approval allows for either alternative; market conditions will dictate Disney’s choice, according to Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
Crews will be able to shoot outdoor and indoor scenes without moving to a second location, making the production process more efficient, Disney representatives said. About 195 acres will remain undeveloped, but be utilized for rural backdrops and outdoor shoots, while the balance of the land will serve as a buffer between production and surrounding uses.
Antonovich welcomed the opportunity to keep production local, along with the jobs and tax revenues it generates.
Construction will spur 3,152 new jobs and $522 million in economic benefit, according to Disney’s estimates. According to the company’s projections, the facility will employ 2,854 full- and part-time workers and add $1.3 million to county coffers and $26 million to state revenue totals annually.
Representatives of several environmental groups spoke out in support of the project, citing Disney’s commitment to “green” building standards and willingness to revise a plan that originally called for felling about 158 oak trees.
“The Sierra Club would like to save as many of these oak trees as possible,” Sandra Cattell, the open space and wildlands chair for the environmental advocacy organization’s Santa Clarita Group, told the board. Cattell went on to praise the studio’s efforts to preserve many of those trees.
Disney has also agreed to plant 1,600 additional oak trees, restore some wildlife habitats and build a public trail leading to the Angeles National Forest.
Homeowners who rely on septic systems will benefit from a planned sewer line and road improvements.
But not everyone has been won over.
“The surrounding area is rural and agriculture right now. So how can adding 12 soundstages be compatible?” asked Lynne Plambeck of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, one of a half dozen speakers in opposition.
The board voted 4-0 to direct its lawyers to draw up the appropriate documents to approve the zoning and other changes needed to allow the project to move forward.