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Gary Horton: Got our new street, now onto the landscape

Posted: July 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.

We’re finally getting our new street today. It took civic action by many in our neighborhood over the course of two full years, but the city has finally come around and allocated resources to maintain the assets for which we pay the taxes for them to maintain — in the first place.

Calling and lobbying and cajoling the City actually do work.

Some background: Here in our special spot of the Summit, our cut-and-fill neighborhood was especially rocked during the Northridge earthquake.

The quake shattered our street paving, and, in the years since, we’ve seen our streets turn into something resembling more cobblestone than asphalt.

Many in our neighborhood have called and pushed and met and discussed the situation with city facility managers for two years.

We pushed and begged and they explained budget tightness and we pushed and they explained away — and finally, last year, they said it would be this year — and two days ago little signs went up all over the neighborhood saying we can’t park on the street for three days or else we’ll be towed away to make room for our new street.
Whew, what a process.

But to the point, “Calling the city works,” and you should never give up getting the public services you pay for.

Carrie and I originally moved to our home here in the Valencia Summit 27 years ago, and it turns out we’ve been real squatters.

We raised three kids here, sending them to all the good local public schools and successfully booting the troika off to college.

We walk up and down Arroyo Parkway to the Starbucks coffee shop nearly every day, meeting our morning friends for 10 or 15 years now.

Back and forth, down and back up again, all for an overpriced cup of coffee and 30 or 60 minutes of this and that babble with the association of grumpy old friends.

In the process, we’ve covered a lot of ground.

We’ve hiked around the Summit streets so often we’ve nearly given each tree and shrub its own name. When we first showed up nearly three decades ago, the slopes were mostly dirt, as they’d just recently been graded and groomed by Newhall Land transforming what was once an untouched genuine oak arroyo into this fine collection of suburban dreams, still surrounded by a wonderful 80-acre natural park.

After a few years, the slopes gently filled and grew to the full splendor we love.

Nowadays, the common landscape is showing stress as it suffers from lack of attention and care. Lawns are browning and weeds are overtaking.

Shrubs have gone unpruned for two years and are giving full-grown trees a run for tallest plant.

It seems our city has grown, and a corporate purchasing mentality may have overtaken the contracting of services for our beloved common-area landscapes.

We’re worried; in many areas our common-area landscape assets are declining and dying and dead — and some of this has to do with overly aggressive purchasing of services.

The city has cut costs on some common-area contracts by 30 percent or more over a few years back.

That’s good for the budget, but those folks who first said “You get what you pay for” were right about what happens with excessively low prices.

I’ve spoken with various operatives lower in the city structure and they’re just as worried about the care of the common-area landscapes throughout the city as we are.

SCV’s landscaping is a great asset and pleasure for those of us who live here. Like all other infrastructure, extending the life and quality of our landscaping assets takes maintenance and care and continuing investment.

Unlike buildings and roads, landscaping requires particularly intensive care, and as we’ve all seen with our private gardens, landscaping can go from beautiful to stressed and dying quite rapidly when ignored or abused.

So, akin to our experience with street maintenance, call the city when you see landscape bugaboos. Call to inform, call to request service, call to cajole.

The folks that turn the gears and make the deals need to know that we’re out here watching, living in, and experiencing our landscape investment. And we want our investment well kept by the taxes we pay.

Once a tree is dead, it’s dead; once grass dies, it’s gone; only pouring taxpayer money at it will make it better again.

Far better to enforce good maintenance now than to replace and replace again later.

Today we get our new street, and everyone is thrilled with the positive change. We’re good for another 50 years — with proper maintenance.

So now we turn our attention to our landscape maintenance, and you should, too.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident and chief executive officer of a landscaping company. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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