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Winds of change buffet Santa Clarita

Local Commentary

Posted: May 31, 2008 1:17 a.m.
Updated: August 1, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
If you have ever attended or watched a City Council meeting, you undoubtedly have observed a cast of "usual suspects" who appear when the council is voting on a proposed development. This group opposes virtually every development.

Over the last couple of years something has changed. Before I go any further, let me say the purpose of this op-ed piece is to not talk about the merits of each issue raised - those issues each deserve their own op-ed. Instead, I cite them as an example of the change taking place in Santa Clarita.

Dave Gauny and Smartgrowth SCV rose out of the proposed Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital expansion plan. Gauny and a group of local residents formed to fight the proposed development.

During this battle several things have come to light: All of the proposed plans had a simple caveat: they need not be built. In other words, there is no requirement that a patient tower has to be built or that sufficient parking be created. Even at full build-out, the hospital would only serve the need of half the population of Santa Clarita.

Al Ferdman and Joe Thomson alerted the residents of the Canyon Country and Newhall areas about a proposed Material Recycling Facility ("MRF") that would have been located near a residential area. Toward the end of the City Council election in April, this became an issue.

Ferdman and Thomson organized two separate meetings, which brought out more than 300 people. A large contingency of citizens attended several City Council meetings and spoke in opposition to the proposed MRF.

With the help of Mayor Kellar, this caused Burrtec to do two things:

* Withdraw the application for the proposed MRF.

* Promise to work with the community when it found another location to build the MRF.

Calgrove Coalition
Just recently, a group called the Calgrove Coalition has formed to oppose the Avenue project, which would be built on top of the old Smiser Mule Ranch, located just off Interstate 5 at the Calgrove exit.

You will have to forgive me; I can't recall the speaker's name, but I need to paraphrase him. He stated that if the city allowed the proposed Avenue project to proceed, it would be like dropping a piece of New York City into our community. The proposed project consisted of mixed- use, would create approximately 4,000 jobs and would allow for two 13-story buildings to be built.

Present city code only allows for a three-story building. The argument is that this area would be self-sustaining. The people who live there would work there, as well.

If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale in New York City. Think of the same argument used in support of Las Lomas that the city and residents vehemently opposed and successfully stopped.

Part of the process
Some have argued that this is an assault on our community. Many argue that our quality of life is in jeopardy - that if we don't have balanced growth now, we will morph into the San Fernando Valley, which has inadequate open space and parks, along with lots of traffic congestion.

Meantime, others argue that people will continue to move to Santa Clarita, and we need to plan and build out accordingly.

The winds of change are coming to Santa Clarita. Residents who used to go about their lives are now engaging in the political process. For the last several City Council meetings, they have attended and made their respective views known.

The message is clear: They want growth that still maintains our sense of community; they want a balance of growth, open space, park space and the creation of good-paying jobs that will allow people to work in the same community they live in.

Presently, it is estimated that almost half of the work force leaves our community to go to work each day. They want developers to meet and work the community. They want to be part of the process from the beginning, not the end.

Michael Cruz is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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