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Planners OK canyon standards

Planning commission approves rural district standards, sends on to supervisors

Posted: April 15, 2009 11:23 p.m.
Updated: April 16, 2009 9:00 a.m.

Judy Reinsma, a longtime resident of San Francisquito Canyon, pets one of her horses. Reinsma is one of many San Francisquito residents who hopes the area can stay rural. The county's Regional Planning Commission unanimously approved a community standards district which would keep the canyon's rural character.

It’s one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s last remaining areas of horse country and many residents of San Francisquito Canyon are pleased that it may stay that way.

The County of Los Angeles’ Regional Planning Commission unanimously approved standards Wednesday that would help maintain the rural, low-density character and natural environment of the San Francisquito community, according to Mitch Glaser, a supervising regional planner.

The item will be considered for a vote by the Board of Supervisors within the next few months, Glaser said.  

“We’re all just so tired of having to fight to keep this canyon rural,” said Judy Reinsma, who attended the planning commission’s hearing Wednesday with five other proponents of the community standards. “This is like a dream come true. We’ll finally have some recognition that this is a lovely place and it deserves to stay here like it is.”

Reinsma is a member of the San Francisquito Canyon Preservation Association, which evolved in the 1990s when a group of residents tried to fight the Tesoro del Valle development, Reinsma said.

Since, Reinsma said, residents of the rural area have battled major developers wanting to build on, or encroach upon, the area. In 2006, the association came up with the idea to pursue a community-standards district. The district would apply to the area between the Angeles National Forest on the north and on the east, the city boundary north of Copper Hill Drive on the south and the Tesoro del Valle area on the west, Glaser said.

“We found out what they did in Acton and Agua Dulce to keep it rural,” Reinsma said. “We decided, let’s just protect the whole thing. I don’t want to keep fighting. Let’s lay down the rules and that’s it.”

The standards basically call for agricultural zoning, a minimum two-acre lot size, rural street standards including no curbs or gutters, a minimum of streetlights, agricultural zoning and a prohibition against building in the San Francisquito Creek streambed. The standards also prohibit building on designated ridgelines, Glaser said.

“The main thing is to preserve the rural, agricultural character of the area,” Reinsma said. “I think this is just in time, because when the economy heats up again, then builders are going to be looking for places to put tract houses.”

Reinsma estimated there are approximately 80 residents within the canyon.

No opposing voices were present at the planning hearing on Wednesday, but in the process of the standard district’s formation over the last two years, some voices have emerged to express concerns.

Gary and Teresa Mason wished the ridgeline standard was less restrictive.

“Zoning is important, but when you start putting laws upon laws, that’s where I struggle,” said Teresa Mason, who has lived in the area with her husband for 16 years. “I don’t see one house on a ridgeline as a problem. When people buy property, they should, to a good extent, be able to do what they want.”

But the Masons said they agree with maintaining the rural character of their area.

“The main idea was just to slow down high-density developments, and if it’ll do that, then I’m all in favor of it,” Gary Mason said.

Linda Luger, president of the Preservation Association and owner of Jump for Joy Ranch, has been a resident in San Francisquito Canyon since 2001.

“We’re all very happy and relieved because we’ve been struggling for years to try and keep the canyon rural and accessible to everybody, and just to preserve it because it’s beautiful,” Luger said.

But Glaser said the community standards are still not a done deal.

“Generally the (Board of Supervisors) tends to go with what the commission recommends,” he said. “But there’s always the potential they may ask for some changes.”



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