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Self-Contained Town Planned : Lancaster-Area Site to Have Homes Near Places of Work

February 26, 1989|DICK TURPIN | Times Real Estate Editor

That's not a mirage out there near Lancaster on the high desert about 95 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

It's the shimmering master plan for a self-supporting new town, a community of homes for families of all incomes who want to live close to their work.

Circumstances of Southern California's population explosion and its economy have made it virtually impossible for city dwellers to live and work in the same area, or to have only a short drive to their place of employment, let alone bicycle or walk to work.

The mirage in the Antelope Valley is expected to evolve into California Springs, with 35,000 homes and 24 million square feet of commercial and industrial space, all expected to cost from $8.5 billion to $9 billion at build-out.

Near Kern County

Covering roughly 15 square miles, its homes, commerce and industry, and possibly a university campus, will utilize the best of planning from such earlier landmark Southland communities as Westlake Village, Valencia, Mission Viejo and Irvine, prize products of the late '60s and '70s.

The site selected is barren, flat desert, oriented north and south along West 170th St. and Avenue D, about 14 miles west of the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, 22 miles east of the Golden State (5) Freeway and about 19 miles west of Lancaster. A proposed freeway, Route 48, would be parallel to Avenue D, through the northern part of the property, which approaches the Kern County line.

Two veteran builder/developers, Ray Watt and Richard Barclay, and a comparative newcomer, David G. Waln, Lancaster-based builder, are the principals in the proposed self-contained town. The Watt/Barclay/Waln partnership hopes to break ground in two years and begin moving families into homes by 1992.

Obviously, start of construction of the new town will provide the first jobs as infrastructure is created. Then service and supply--supporting construction and all the needs of an embryo city--will follow, followed by the permanent jobs brought about by commerce and industry.

Seek Out Employers

"We must find ways to get housing and jobs closer together so that workers will not be jamming the freeways, driving between affordable housing in outlying areas and jobs in crowded urban centers," Watt said. "Freeway traffic congestion today will be gridlock tomorrow unless we begin now to plan for the growth to come."

"One of the key elements we have identified is employment," he said. "We are prepared to make 'sweetheart' deals with labor-intensive companies willing to locate here during the first phase so that we can create a strong employment base from the beginning."

California Springs will pay its own way--no county or city investment is expected to fund the local infrastructure. Initial phases of construction will include entry-level housing, a senior citizen community, a large recreational lake, regulation golf course, neighborhood commercial and retail centers and the first phase of an industrial park.

Citing Southern California Assn. of Governments (SCAG) estimates of growth for the Southland by the year 2010, Watt said expectations are that the rapidly expanding Antelope Valley will increase from its current population of 168,000 to 532,000.

'Self-Sufficient Communities'

SCAG estimates show Southern California's population of 13 million increasing by 5 million in the ensuing 21 years. Of that number, 37% are expected to settle in Los Angeles County, with the Antelope Valley accounting for 22% of the county's growth. Significantly, the entire population of Southern California is surpassed only by three states--California, New York and Texas.

"The question is not whether growth will come, but how," Watt said. "We can either have (more) suburban sprawl and the problems it generates, or we can develop self-sufficient communities like Westlake Village, Valencia, Mission Viejo and Irvine, which provide a balanced mix of housing, employment, recreation and educational opportunities."

The development team includes SWA Group, nationwide land planners and environmental analysts; Robert Bein, William Frost Associates, civil engineers, and Barton-Aschman Associates Inc., traffic engineers. Jean Marie Gath of the SWA Group will be the lead planner. Richard K. Law, company principal, was lead planner for Woodbridge, the Irvine community that exploded into housing headlines in its June, 1976 debut.

That spring hundreds of would-be buyers camped outside the sales offices, vying for an opportunity to purchase a new home. As a result, a lottery was established in fairness to all prospective buyers.

Draws Comparisons

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